Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the country’s sole aircraft manufacturer, unveiled a prototype of a South Korean-made first Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) it has produced under contract for the Republic of Korea Arm on Tuesday (Dec. 18). KAI began to develop the Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) in June 2015 and assembled the prototype helicopter last month. The company will make a series of ground tests from January to see if the prototype helicopter’s engine and other systems work properly before it makes a test flight in May 2019 through July 2022.
The Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) program is a partnership between Airbus Helicopters & KAI to develop a 4.9 ton-class light helicopter derived from the Airbus H155B1 (formerly EC155) Dauphin, which first flew in 1997. The LAH will operate alongside the Boeing AH-64E Guardians already in Korean Army service. It is armed with a chin-mounted 20mm rotating gun turret, rockets, and anti-tank guided missiles, and comes equipped with the latest aircraft survivability and sensor suites. Before the LAH program, Airbus Helicopters had a highly successful relationship with Korea Aerospace Industries which included the joint program that developed Korea’s Surion twin-engine utility transport helicopter.
KAI plans to produce at least 200 to replace the Korean Army’s fleet of ageing MD500 Defenders as well as part of its fleet of AH-1S Cobras, and also plans to offer it on the international market. 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. 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.