Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been selected by the South Korean Government to manufacture a new medical evacuation (MEDEVEAC) helicopter for the national army.
Based on the South Korean Army's existing Surion aircraft, the new helicopters will be developed at a cost of KRW32bn ($31m), reported Yonhap News Agency.
The Defense Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) said the development will continue until 2016, with the operational helicopters handed over to soldiers the following year.
"Once it reaches troops, the chopper will contribute to saving lives," DAPA said, without disclosing the number that will be manufactured.
In addition to additional external fuel tanks, the helicopter is also expected to feature weather radar and ground collision warning systems, as well as a range of other features that will enable operation in day or night, and in adverse weather conditions.
A hoist and trunked radio system will be incorporated to maintain live communication with the hospital. This will facilitate the treatment of wounded soldiers on arrival.
The Surion MEDEVAC version will also include advanced medical equipment, such as a respirator, vital signs monitor, facilities for emergency surgery and an automated external defibrillator.
Undisclosed KAI sources told the news agency that the company will initially deliver eight helicopters to the army, with more to follow in the future.
Scheduled to be used by a soon-to-be-established airborne medical evacuation unit, the specially configured helicopters can also be used to evacuate injured civilians during peacetime missions.
The unit is expected to be established in 2015, and would continue using the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk until the arrival of the new helicopters.
Surion is a twin-engined light-utility aircraft designed for troop assault, search and rescue, tactical lift, liaison, and medical evacuation missions.
Image: KAI has been selected to develop a MEDEVAC version of the Surion utility helicopter. Photo: courtesy of ROKAF (2013).