The KAI KUH-1 Surion is a twin-engine, transport utility helicopter developed primarily by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) jointly with Eurocopter (Airbus Helicopter). In 2006, the research and development phase of the Korea Helicopter Project – Korea Utility Helicopter (KHP-KUH), costing around 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion), was launched by the Agency for Defense Development. In 2012, full-scale production of the Surion commenced; KAI has been designated as the principal manufacturer of the type.
An initial force of around 245 Surions have been ordered by the Republic of Korea Army to replace their aging fleets of UH-1H utility helicopters and 500MD light utility helicopters, which have been in service for decades. KAI shall also construct civilian and law enforcement variants of the helicopter. It has been designed to be rapidly reconfigured to serve different roles, some models are also navalised. The Surion can perform various duties and roles, such as military transport, law enforcement, aerial observation, search and rescue, maritime support, aerial firefighting, and for civilian purposes along with other missions.
The KAI KUH-1 Surion is a twin-engine medium-sized multipurpose rotorcraft, carrying up to nine troops along with a crew of four (two pilots and two gunners in the main cabin area) in a utility transport capacity. Power is provided by a pair of 1,600 shp Hanwha Techwin T700-ST-701K turboshaft engines, a licence-built localized development of the General Electric T700. The exhausts of the engines are equipped with large infrared suppressors; these have been adapted from those used on the Eurocopter EC725. Airbus Helicopters manufactures various elements of the Surion’s transmission; the lower-than-intended level of indigenous production of these components has been a point of controversy.
The Surion is equipped with various survivability and damage reduction features. Both the airframe and the cockpit have been made bulletproof against small arms fire. The airframe, tail rotor, and the rotor blades used on both the main and tail rotors are of a crashworthy construction; anti-explosion sealed fuel tanks are also used. The main gearbox is capable of flying for a limited period after suffering the loss of lubricating oil. Various electronic defensive measures are incorporated onto the Surion, such as a countermeasures dispenser system (CMDS), radar warning receiver (RWR), laser warning receiver (LWR).
British firm Cobham plc provides navigation and communication equipment for the Surion. Sandle Avionic’s HeliTAWS multi-hazard avoidance system is installed on Surions in police service. Elbit Systems of Israel produces the helmet mounted display (HMD) used on the Surion, the HMD allows the crew to conduct full day-and-night operations. Hanwha Corporation, a subcontractor in the KUH development, awarded a $3.5m contract to GKN Aerospace for supplying fuel bladders to the KHP. These fuel bladders are manufactured with a special material, which is more flexible than current materials available in the market.