SEOUL, Dec. 29 (Korea Bizwire) – South Korea’s sole aircraft maker Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) said Tuesday it has completed the development of a marine variant of its Surion transport helicopter, which will help enhance the range of operation and mobility for the Marine Corps.
The KAI undertook the project in 2013 to produce a sea-based version of the twin-engine transport utility helicopter for the Marines, which will carry out transport missions on the sea or aboard warships.
Since its maiden flight in January last year, the KAI conducted eight months of test flights and successfully won the government’s verification on the new helicopter’s operability under the marine environment, the company said in a statement.
Mass production will begin in the first half of 2016 and delivery to the military will be wrapped up by 2019.
The latest product is the second variant of the KUH-1 Surion, South Korea’s first-ever indigenous helicopter, which the KAI developed in 2010 in a 1.3 trillion won (US$1.1 million) military procurement project. A police variant of the Surion is currently in service.
“The latest success in the development is expected to help double our military’s ability to conduct multidimensional high-speed amphibious operations,” a KAI representative said. “It will also help expand the radius of operations of the Marine Corps and improve their mobility.”
The marine version comes with additional functions and high-tech equipment to be used for the Marine Corps’ various amphibious missions.
Two auxiliary fuel tanks were added to the marine chopper in addition to the four original tanks, which empowers the upgraded model to fly 524 kilometers for three hours without stopping. The extended range was verified in a flight test conducted in September, according to the KAI.
The helicopter is also fitted with folding rotor blades to be more loadable on warships.
Weather radar and emergency medical equipment have been additionally added to the helicopter that is capable of carrying six people at a time.
The KAI said it is currently developing many other variants for medical transport, firefighting, forest maintenance and military operations.
“Replacing locally-operated foreign helicopters with indigenous ones will help reduce the massive outflow of money to foreign companies while improving the technology and the price competitiveness of domestic helicopters, thus boosting their exportability,” a KAI representative said, highlighting the advantage of the Surion.
The company said they are seeking to sell the helicopter to Thailand, Iraq and the Czech Republic.’