Korean Air recently delivered its first AH-6 helicopter fuselage commissioned by Boeing Defense, Space & Security (BDS). Korean Air signed a contract with Boeing in December 2021 to manufacture a total of eight fuselages for AH-6 helicopters that will undergo final assembly by BDS. Helicopter fuselage manufacturing requires advanced and specialized technology especially for parts such as the canopy and landing gear. Korean Air worked closely with its partner, Kencoa Aerospace, to successfully deliver its first fuselage. The Boeing AH-6 is a small, versatile attack helicopter used primarily as an air support platform for special operations.
Korean Air’s extensive experience and expertise in helicopter manufacturing is widely recognized. Korean Air was the first manufacturer of the 500MD helicopter in Korea, and produced and sold 309 500MD helicopters to the military, public institutions and private companies from 1977 to 1988. The airline has also produced and exported 516 500MD fuselage, and recently, successfully carried out an unmanned 500MD project. Following the success of this project, Korean Air plans to collaborate with Boeing to expand its overseas sales and new aircraft development and manufacturing business in the future.
The AH-6 has a number of features that have made it the U.S. Special Forces’ primary attack helicopter to this day. The rear is the home of the engine, which develops about 375 shp, powering the Little Bird to a maximum speed of 282 km/h. The AH-6 can carry a wide variety of weapons on its two mounting pylons. It is generally a combination of the following weapons: M230 30 mm chainguns, six-barreled M134 7.62 mm miniguns, three-barreled 12.7 mm GAU-19 Gatling guns, pods with Hydra 70 mm unguided rockets, AGM-114 Hellfire anti-tank missiles, TOW anti-tank missiles, Mk.19 40 mm automatic grenade launchers, and AIM-92 Stinger short range air-to-air missiles.
Korean Air did not specify the eventual user of the attack helicopters. The U.S. State Department cleared a potential arms sale for eight AH-6i helicopters from Thailand. Thailand requested the purchase of eight AH-6i light-attack reconnaissance helicopters, with an estimated cost of $400 million. The Boeing-made rotorcraft will be used to replace Thailand’s older fleet of seven AH-1F Cobra helicopters. In addition to the helicopters, the order would include 50 AGM-114R Hellfire missiles, 200 advanced precision kill weapon system rockets, 10 M134 Miniguns, 10 M260 rocket launchers, 10 M299 Longbow Hellfire launchers and an assortment of other equipment.