Korean Aerospace Industries Co. could field a new light armed helicopter in 2022. Rendering courtesy of Korean Aerospace Industries Co.
The prototype for Korea Aerospace Industries’ new light civil helicopter (LCH) flew for the first time last month in southern France, where flight testing is ongoing.
Developed by KAI, the LCH is based on an Airbus Helicopters H155 and flew two months ahead of schedule, according to Airbus.
“Test flights of the first KAI-developed LCH prototype have started in Marignane, [France], two months ahead of the contractual timeline,” a company spokesperson said in an emailed statement. “These activities are carried out in the frame of the contract signed in 2015 with KAI, and as part of which the South Korean manufacturer is developing enhanced derivatives of the H155 for civil and military use. Airbus is providing technical support to KAI in this project.”
KAI is developing two variants of the five-ton class H155: the LCH and a light armed helicopter (LAH) to replace legacy KAI-produced MD500s and Bell AH-1 attack helicopters. LAH is scheduled for first flight in 2019, with fielding to begin by November 2022.
Both the LCH and LAH will be based on Airbus Helicopters’ H155 most modern version of the Dauphin family, which also includes the Panther military and parapublic variants.
As part of the partnering agreement, Airbus Helicopters transferred its technical know-how to KAI so Korea could develop indigenous aircraft.
The H155 features the same digital four-axis autopilot that South Korean pilots use when flying the KAI-developd KUH-1 Surion twin-engine utility helicopter, and ensures outstanding hover performance in extreme conditions, along with highly accurate settings for altitude, speed and headwind.
Surion was developed under a similar partnership between KAI and Airbus. The Korean Army ordered 245 of the aircraft, based on the H225M, formerly the Eurocopter EC725 Caracal.