KAI Maintains Hopes for Surion Sales

 - April 30, 2019, 10:14 AM
A Surion and a marine Marineon variant (foreground) are seen on the KAI final assembly line at Sacheon, South Korea. (photo: Chen Chuanren via KAI)

Despite losing out to the Sikorsky UH-60 Black Hawk in the Philippines’ Combat Utility Helicopter program, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) remains hopeful that its KUH-1 Surion helicopter will have a chance in other Southeast Asia helicopter programs. 

Without naming a specific country, a senior KAI management representative told AIN that a Southeast Asian state still has an active requirement for a medium-lift helicopter and that KAI will participate in the competition, offering the KUH-1 army version.

AIN understands that he was referring to the Indonesian requirement for 40 light combat helicopters and 100 medium-lift helicopters, as part of the country’s Minimum Essential Force (MEF) II (2015-2019) plan. The Koreans already have a significant presence in the Indonesian defense sector, having supplied 16 T-50i Golden Eagle advanced trainers and submarines, as well as sharing development of the multi-billion dollar K/I-FX next-generation fighter with PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

“Like the FA-50 program with the Philippines, the international launch customer of the Surion will benefit,” the representative said. "We have our own internal process to reduce the price of the aircraft for the first customer.”

In addition, the KAI official noted that there is as yet no rush to market the new Light Armed Helicopter (LAH), which was unveiled in December 2018. KAI said that it would wait for the completion of both the LAH and its civilian counterpart—the Light Civil Helicopter (LCH)—before they are marketed together by a joint team from 2021 onwards.

On April 5, KAI achieved a significant milestone in the LAH program when it performed the first engine ground-run tests.