Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been selected as a preferred bidder for South Korea's light-armed helicopters (LAH) and light-civil helicopters (LCH) projects.
The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Ministry of Trade, Industry and Energy (MOTIE) selected the company for the system development of the LAH project and preferred bidder for the core technology development of the LCH.
With an estimated KRW1trn (($978m) budget supported by the South Korean Government and overseas investors, the LCH / LAH project aims to develop a 10,000lb-class light-armed helicopter and the light-civil helicopter.
The selection enables the company to establish a LCH / LAH development plan, including shortlisting foreign system developers, as well as domestic and foreign vendors. The final contracts are scheduled to be signed in November.
Driven by DAPA, the LAH project is focused on developing a new helicopter to replace the South Korean Army's ageing and superannuated 500 MD and AH-1Ss attack helicopter fleets.
It has been in progress since 2009, when the South Korean military announced a plan to deploy and operate a high-class attack helicopter and a low-class armed helicopter as its army aviation aircraft.
KAI plans to use the civil and military parts acquired through the development of the LCH in the helicopter, while purchasing armed and fire control systems from international companies.
Managed by MOITE, the LCH platform is expected to be used for several missions, including emergency services, coastal surveillance and passenger transportation.
The company is currently in talks with AgustaWestland, Airbus, Bell Helicopters and Sikorsky to participate in LCH development.
The development phases of the LAH and LCH projects are likely to finish in 2020 and 2022, respectively.
Image: A concept of South Korea's LAH / LCH helicopter. Photo: courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries.