South Korea Forestry Service Orders Surion; Russia Protests

By Staff Writer | December 1, 2015
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A KUH-1 Surion performs cold-weather flight testing in Alaska in 2012. Photo courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries

Korea Aerospace Industries is pursuing a special airworthiness certificate for its KUH-1 Surion to fulfill a new order from South Korea’s national forestry service.

The forestry service ordered a firefighting version of the twin-engine utility helicopter, the manufacturer said in early December, adding that the order is worth $17.6 million (20.7 billion won). The service’s Surion is to be delivered by the end of 2017 and fitted with a 528-gal (2,000-l) water tank and a rescue hoist.


KAI said South Korean law requires aircraft that have not been issued a standard airworthiness certificate (by the Ministry of Land, Infrastructure and Transport) to receive a special certificate if they are to be used for missions such as firefighting, search and rescue and disaster relief.

With a fleet of 45, the Korea Forest Service is reported to have the most civil government helicopters in the country. Most are Kamov Ka-32s.

KAI developed the Surion with Airbus Helicopters to provide an indigenous option for replacing the South Korean army’s MD Helicopters MD-500s and Bell Helicopter UH-1s as well as meeting other national vertical-lift requirements.

Russian Helicopters complained that the contract award was discriminatory because it was not permitted to compete for the work. It also argued that the Surion is not technically suited for the firefighting work.

KAI acknowledged that the special airworthiness certificate requirement has impeded Surion sales, saying, “some governmental agencies have been hesitant to introduce the Surion” because of a lack of understanding of the requirement. The company expects that the forestry service’s use of the Surion will promote “the purchase of the locally made helicopter by other governmental institutions” and “have a positive effect on overseas exports.”

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