South Korea’s chopper Surion has defects that make it “unreliable” for flight missions, Seoul’s audit agency said on Sunday, requesting a prosecutorial investigation into the helicopter’s local manufacturer and the nation’s arms procurement agencies.
The Board of Audit and Inspection announced that the helicopter lacks lightening protection and anti-icing capability. It even has an engine leakage and malfunctions in its fuselage and windshield.
The state-run audit body said Korea Aerospace Industry, Surion’s manufacturer, did not run proper flight tests, while Defense Acquisition Program Administration and its affiliate Agency for Defense Development failed to supervise the procedure.
The audit agency requested an investigation into DAPA chief Chang Myoung-jin, who allowed for continued deployment of Surion in December despite the defects, along with two other DAPA officials.
|Surion helicopter. Yonhap|
“We hope the investigation will help us come up with measures to fix Surion’s safety issues,” said the audit agency in a statement. “(The probe) will serve as an opportunity to ensure safety of the pilots and make Surion the best Korean helicopters.”
It was not the first time that the helicopters’ flight safety prompted public concern. In 2015, a Surion crashed due to engine malfunction. In May, 1.2-1.5 centimeters-long cracks were found on the fuselage of eight Surions.
Deployed to the South Korean Army since 2012, Surion is a twin-engine light utility helicopter designed to support various missions including troop assault, search-and-rescue, tactical lift, liaison and medical evacuation.
Designed to fit the mountainous topography of the Korean Peninsula, the helicopters can travel at a speed of 140 knots for more than two hours with nine fully-equipped soldiers and make a vertical ascent at a speed of 500 feet per minute.
The 15 meter-long and 4.5 meter-tall chopper is equipped with an automated navigation device, a multi-functional display system and other high-tech gears. Surions will replace aging U.S. UH-1Hs and 500MDs, which have been in service for more than three decades, according to DAPA.
By Yeo Jun-suk (email@example.com)