Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) signed a contract with the Defense Acquisition Programs Administration (DAPA) to supply Surion multipurpose helicopters valued at 2.2 trillion won, the company said on Dec. 28.
South Korea’s Marine Corps will for the first time deploy some 30 Surion transport utility helicopters.
Under the contract, the KAI will supply roughly 30 Surion helicopters to the Marine Corps by 2023 and about 70 units to the Army by 2022.
The choppers are expected to boost the capability of the Marine's independent landing operations.
The Surion is a multipurpose helicopter completely developed in South Korea. It was developed as a replacement for the Army’s old choppers in a six-year joint project involving 126 industrial, academic, research and government agencies from 2006. Completed in 2013, the development cost more than 1.3 trillion won ($1 billion).
The Marines have so far depended on the U.S. for such helicopters in joint drills.
KAI has been developing the Surion helicopter variant for the Marine Corps since July 2013 and successfully completed its first test flight in January 2015. The development was completed in January this year after the helicopter’s operability under various conditions was verified. The helicopter is designed to transport troops and military supplies between a warship and land, the firm noted. “The chopper is best suited for naval operations as the main rotor is foldable, and the body is coated with anti-corrosive agents,” KAI said in a release.
KAI added that it also inked another deal worth 1.56 trillion won to build and deliver 70 additional Surion helicopters to the Army by 2022, which will be the third delivery. KAI has so far delivered 90 Surion choppers to the Army through their first and second delivery contracts in the past three years. Developed as a multipurpose helicopter, the Surion has also been used by other government agencies such as the National Police Agency and the Korea Forest Servicers.
The government on March 30, 2016, named Korea Aerospace Industries as the preferred bidder of a multibillion-dollar deal to develop a new fighter jet.
The deal is one of South Korea’s most ambitious weapons development programs. The project, known as KF-X, short for Korean Fighter Experimental, is part of Seoul’s plans to replace a decades-old fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
Initial investment on the project is 8.7 trillion won ($7.9 billion), and total production costs are expected to more than double that, according to the South Korean contractor.
Sixty percent of the funding will come from Seoul and 20 percemt from Indonesia in a previously agreed-upon deal for joint development and production. The remainder will come from KAI and its technology-support partner, Lockheed Martin Corp., KAI said.
KAI’s proposed design won't match the performance of the most advanced fighter jets in the market, such as Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, but will be more competitive in price. Seoul last year signed a $6.8 billion deal to receive 40 F-35s on condition that Lockheed provides technology to be used for the Korean program.
The South Korean company expects to complete aircraft development by late 2025 and to deploy 120 jets by 2032. It is unclear if Lockheed will benefit financially from future sales of the jets.
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (commonly referred to as KAI), is a South Korean aerospace company, originally a joint venture of Samsung Aerospace, Daewoo Heavy Industries, and Hyundai Space and Aircraft Company, which in 1999 took over its founding members at the behest of the Korean government following their financial troubles which emerged in the 1997 financial crisis.
The headquarters and its major plants are located at Sacheon city.
In 2010, KAI was studying a project for launching a 90-seat turboprop, to be announced as early as 2011. In October 2012, a joint development deal between Bombardier Aerospace and a government-lead South Korean consortium was revealed to develop a 90-seater turboprop regional airliner, targeting a 2019 launch date. The consortium would include Korea Aerospace Industries and Korean Air Lines.