Seoul eyes export market for its Surion light helicopter

Nov. 1, 2013 at 6:01 AM
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SEOUL, Nov. 1 (UPI) -- South Korea is looking at the export market for its first indigenously produced light helicopter, the Surion.

Initial export targets are between 60-120 Surions within 20 years, said Kiwan Hahn, KAI's director of marketing for the Surion.

In an interview with at the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, Hahn said KAI has had requests for proposals from two countries in South America and a request for information an Asian country.

He said he hoped a proposed naval variant could replace the South Korean navy's AgustaWestland Lynx 99/99A helicopters.

The Surion KUH-1 is the result of the Korean government's six-year $1.17 billion project, started in June, 2006 to produce a twin-engine light utility helicopter.

Surions are being built by Korea Aerospace Industries in conjunction with Korea's Agency for Defense Development, Korea Aerospace Research Institute and Eurocopter.

After design work was completed in 2009, the government announced about 60 percent of the aircraft's parts, including the rotor blades and health and usage monitoring systems, were to be made locally. Eurocopter provides gearboxes, rotor mast and autopilot systems as well as technical assistance.

A prototype of the Surion -- which means agile and flawless in Korean -- was delivered in August 2009 and completed its maiden flight in March 2010 before entering full-scale production in 2012.

The Korea Times reported in May that 10 of the Surions had been delivered to the Army Aviation School in Nonsan, South Chungcheong province.

About 245 Surions are on order for delivery by 2022 to replace Korea's aging fleet of Bell "Huey" UH-1H attack helicopters and Hughes 500MD light helicopters.

Forty amphibious variants for the marines will be delivered by 2023.

KAI plans to build civilian variants of the Surion, making production up to around 300 units.

Raytheon announced this week it has delivered an initial batch of its APX-119 identification friend-or-foe transponders for the Surion.

IFF transponders provide aircraft with a secure combat identification capability to reduce fratricide and enhance situational awareness, as well as provide safe access to civilian airspace.

"This is a major milestone in providing the Republic of Korea with the next generation IFF system to meet evolving military and civil requirements for air, land and sea applications," Glen Bassett, director of Advanced Communications and Countermeasures in Raytheon's Space and Airborne Systems business, said. "We also have delivered APX-114 interrogators for maritime applications and our reduced size and weight mini IFF transponder to the Korean Air Lines' unmanned aerial systems."

Elbit Systems of Haifa, Israel, announced last month it is supplying advanced helmet-mounted displays for use in Surion helicopters.

Elbit said the value of the follow-on contract is "in an amount that isn't material" to the company and that the systems are being delivered over four years.

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