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S. Korea completes development of indigenous utility helicopter

South Korea has completed development of an indigenous light utility helicopter after six years as the country moves to replace its aging fleet of choppers, the state arms procurement agency said Friday.

The Defense Acquisition and Procurement Agency launched a project to build a two-engine transport utility helicopter in 2006 to replace UH-1H attack helicopters and 500MD light helicopters, which have been in service for decades.

Korea Aerospace Industries, the prime contractor, has worked with other state institutes and parts companies to build the Korean Utility Helicopter with a budget of about 1.3 trillion won ($1.1 billion).
The Surion utility helicopter (DAPA)
The Surion utility helicopter (DAPA)

The Surion utility helicopter made its maiden flight in March 2010, and entered full-scale production in 2012. The helicopter completed 2,000 sorties (2,700 flight hours) between March 2010 and April 2012.

The Surion also completed 50 flight tests under extreme weather conditions in the U.S. state of Alaska for 50 days starting in December 2012, flying over 11,000 kilometers.

The turboshaft engine helicopter was exposed to temperatures of minus 40 C for more than 12 hours before flight tests were carried out and its global positioning and inertial navigation systems operated normally.

“By establishing various infrastructure to develop the Korean Utility Helicopter, we expect the project could lay the groundwork for the nation’s aerospace industry,” the DAPA said in a release.

“The advanced technology used in building the helicopter is expected to benefit other industries, such as automobile, shipbuilding and IT technology.”

About 200 Surions have been ordered to replace aging military helicopters in the next few years, a DAPA official said, without elaborating on details.

The development of the Surion made South Korea the world’s 11th nation to develop a homegrown chopper. (Yonhap News)
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