South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer said Monday that it has signed a deal to sell its Surion chopper to the country's forestry service.
The 20.5 billion won ($17.6 million) contract between Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. and the Public Procurement Service calls for one helicopter to be delivered by the end of 2017.
The company said that the sale marks the first time it will sell the rotary aircraft to the Korea Forest Service and could potentially lead to more orders down the line.
Of the 106 helicopters operated by non-military government agencies, 45 are operated by the forest service. The fire department owns 25 aircraft, with the police and Coast Guard having 19 and 17 choppers in their fleets, respectively.
"The Russian-made Ka-32s in service with the forestry service were first deployed in 1993, and if they take on water in their belly-mounted tanks, the aircraft's speed falls to 148 kilometers per hour," a KAI representative said. The representative also said that a similarly configured Surion can fly at 260km/h, which will greatly reduce flight time.
Besides the belly water tank, the choppers to be handed over to the forestry service will have a rescue hoist and an emergency flotation system so that they can land on water.
The local forestry chopper market, including related support, is estimated to be worth some 1.8 trillion won, with KAI in a good position to wrestle future orders from foreign rivals. So far, the company has received orders for and made deliveries of four choppers to the police, not including the latest sale.
There are expectations that the helicopter, already in service with the South Korean military, will win overseas orders from the Middle East, Latin America and Southeast Asia down the road. (Yonhap)