The KAI Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) is a joint project between Korea Aerospace Industries and Airbus Helicopters to develop a 5-ton light armed helicopter for the Republic of Korea Army based on the Airbus H155B1. The LAH is being developed in conjunction with the Light Civil Helicopter (LCH). As a result, many components of the LAH will be shared with the LCH. Approximately 200 aircraft will be procured to replace the aging fleet of AH-1S Cobra, MD500, and Bo-105 helicopters and to supplement the fleet of AH-64E Guardian attack helicopters.The KAI aims to sell about 1,000 of the LCH and LAH aircraft in domestic and overseas markets, generating approximately 23 trillion won in revenue, and creating 110,000 jobs annually.
The EC155 is to serve as the basis for KAI’s Light Civil Helicopter (LCH) and Light Armed Helicopter (LAH), featuring numerous changes including a new cockpit, improved gearbox and rotor blades; the LAH shall have a chin-mounted 20 mm cannon and side-mounted guided rockets, countermeasures systems, and be able to carry 6–10 combat troops. LCH and LAH would not compete with Surion, since the two choppers are in different weight classes. Surion is a 19,200-pound aircraft and is in the medium-to-heavy category, while the two new types to be developed are “intermediate” or medium-to-light 10,000-pound helicopters in terms of weight class. The LCH is to enter service in 2020, and the LAH will follow in 2022 to replace the MD 500 Defender and AH-1J/S Cobra. Work is expected to be completed by the end of 2022 with serial production to commence in 2023, coinciding with the introduction of the LAH into ROK service.
Hanwha Techwin has been developing the TAipers (Tank Sniper) Light Armed Helicopter Air-to-Ground Missile (LAH-AGM) as the primary anti-tank missile for the LAH since 2015. Weighing 35 kg (77 lb) and guided by a dual CCD TV and imaging infrared (IIR) seeker delivering a fire-and-forget capability as well as a fire, observe, and update mode using a fiber-optic data-link, up to two twin-tube launchers can be outfitted on either side of the fuselage providing an anti-armor capability up to 8 kilometres (5.0 mi) away. The LAH will make up the low end of the country’s armed helicopter procurement plan that involves 36 AH-64E Apache Guardians at the high end.
In 2015, Airbus Helicopters and Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) formed an agreement to transfer principle manufacturing activity for the EC155 to South Korea; KAI shall become the sole manufacturer of the type after 2018, and both firms shall be jointly involved in the international marketing and further development of the type. The Eurocopter EC155 (now Airbus Helicopters H155) is a long-range medium-lift passenger transport helicopter developed by Eurocopter from its Dauphin family for civil aviation use. It is a twin-engined aircraft and can carry up to 13 passengers along with 1 or 2 crew, depending on customer configuration. The helicopter is marketed for passenger transport, offshore support, VIP corporate transport and casualty transport duties. In 2015, the EC155 was formally renamed to the H155, in line with Eurocopter’s corporate rebranding as Airbus Helicopters. Airbus Helicopters is the world’s No. 1 helicopter manufacturer with 44 percent market share in civil and parapublic sectors, the company’s fleet in service includes some 12,000 helicopters operated by more than 3,000 customers in more than 150 countries.