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Korean Multi-role Helicopter
Korean Multi-Purpose Helicopter [KMH]

By early 2005 the former Korean Multi-Role Helicopter (KMH) project, entailing the development of some 500 military aircraft including 200 attack helicopters by 2012, had been downscaled, and economic feasibility of the project was to be re-examined. On 19 February 2005 Park Sung-gook, a retired brigadier general in charge of the procurement project, said "The military currently has enough attack helicopters for operation until 2018... We will determine whether to build attack helicopters later depending on the successfulness of the KHP project."

The Korean Multi-Purpose Helicopter [KMH] project was intended to develop a helicopter designed exclusively for the military, which will suit the geographical characteristics of Korea. The project was aimed at developing next-generation helicopters that will replace Korean Armed Forces' current inventory of aging aircraft.

The purpose of the KMH program was to develop and manufacture 300 utility and 170 attack helicopters to replace the existing fleet of UH-1H/BELL-412 (utility), AH-1J/S(attack) and 500-MD aircraft currently operated by the ROK Army. By February 2004 The KMH project called for the development of 518 (338 utility and 180 attack) helicopters by 2012. Additionally, the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) foresaw the possibility of as many as 500 aircraft for civilian purposes and export.

Although referred to as a multi-role helicopter the concept was actually two helicopters with maximum commonality of major components, principally in the drive train system.

The Korean Agency for Defence Development (ADD) and Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) have identified this program as having considerable export potential. Korea has a stated objective to increase indigenous production of major defence equipment. In respect of KMH, it will require investments from overseas to achieve this.

Opinions over the KMH requirements differed even among military officials. However, at the center of the issue was not the amount of funds available, but program implementation itself, as the requirements might have to be adjusted before the KMH was fully developed. There were three major obstacles facing MND and the KMH project. First was program definition and management. Developing and fielding armed reconnaissance, light transport, and utility versions with the same airframe will be a challenge. Second was that advanced technology must be obtained from a foreign partner. Third was that funding requirements will be onerous, given the wide scope of the program's requirements). In any case, there might have been an opportunity for a US defense contractor to enter into a partnership with ROK to develop the KMH.

The MND and the Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) received "National Program Status" for the KMH program in September 2003 and the KMH group officially was established on December 15, 2003. The KMH project group at MND was composed of approximately 60 members from MND, ROKA Aviation, Agency for Defense Development (ADD), Defense Quality Assurance Agency (DQAA), Defense Procurement Agency (DPA), Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI), civilian experts, and others.

Under the auspices of the Program Management Office (PMO), three key organizations were closely working together to develop indigenous helicopters: the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for system design/part purchase/integration; the Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) for dual-use components/preliminary design participation; and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) for mission equipment/armament/preliminary design participation and overall technical management. The Defense Procurement Agency (DPA) will serve as the contract agency for the KMH program.

The KMH plans involving local industry were to give the South Korean Army a twin-engined helicopter with a 6,800kg (15,000lb) maximum take-off weight. KMH was the 'next generation utility and attack helicopters' developmental program for ROKG (Republic of Korea Government) to replace aged UH-1H, 500MD, and AH-1S currently being used in operations for the purpose of reinforcing military potentials and developing domestic aerospace industries. The utility version was to be used in missions for troop transport, command & control, and the Attack version for anti-tank, combat, ground suppression, and other multi-role missions. The KMH was to be developed with Korean unique-configuration by incorporating advanced systems & technology including advanced avionics, integrated glass cockpit, composite bearing-less rotor system, twin engines and high-performance transmission, etc.

ADD announced its areas of interest to develop Mission Equipment Package (MEP) and Turret Gun System (TGS) in partnership with foreign companies. The Mission Equipment Package (MEP) includes communication & identification equipment, navigation equipment, aircraft survivability equipment, mission management equipment, and electro-optical equipment. The Mission Computer Software provides System Operational Flight Program. The Aircraft Survivability Equipment (ASE) System Design and Integration included ASE Suite Controller and Laser Warning Receiver.

The Korean Multi-Purpose Helicopter Program was initialised in early 2002 by the Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND). The exploratory development was launched in the mid 2003, with an in-service date planned for around 2009.

The KMH Program was designated as a "National Policy Program" in September 2003, with sharing of roles and expenses between Ministry of National Defense (MND) and Ministry of Commerce, Industry and Energy (MOCIE) for replacing existing helicopters and fostering domestic aviation industries. Agency for Defense Development (ADD) was designated as the lead agency to conduct a conceptual study and conduct exploratory development, which was also referred as Engineering and Manufacturing Design (EMD). The KMH Program Management Office officially was established in January 2004 under the Ministry of National Defense for taking charge of Korean Multi-Role Helicopter development program.

MND had decided to use indigenous technology for the KMH program for approximately 72 percent of the systems with the remaining 28 percent coming through foreign acquisition. Given the current technology level of the Korean aerospace industry, Korean companies were now eager to look for opportunities by teaming up with foreign companies in order to be more competitive in their proposals. The ADD and KARI will select a Korean and a foreign company for each component for which they have responsibility and determine how much work can be done locally. Some of engine suppliers were urging PMO to delay selecting components until after an airframe has been chosen, and warn that the program could suffer integration problems if it moves forward as scheduled.

Rival manufacturers were studying how best to meet South Korea's KMH needs. Bell was investigating a tiltrotor proposal and the possible development of an all-new tiltrotor, one step down from the Bell/Agusta BA609. The alternative for Bell would be to invest in a militarised version of the 427 civil helicopter, involving a stretch to the fuselage currently built by Korea Aerospace Industries. Kamov was the other contender and has approached its South Korean partner LG International about using the Ka-60 as its baseline aircraft for KMH. That was driven by the South Korean government's insistence on a 50% offset with its competition to buy attack helicopters (AH-X) where Kamov was bidding the Ka-52.

In October 2001 Korean Air agreed with Sikorsky Aircraft Corp., to cooperate on the development of multi-purpose helicopters. The two firms signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for partnership on the project to develop the Korean multi-purpose helicopter (KMH). Under the terms of the MOU, the two companies will participate in technical and strategic discussions, exchange ideas and cooperate in product development and marketing initiatives. KAL will also combine its own helicopter design system with that of Sikorsky, sharing core technologies starting with the design phase. The KAL-Sikorsky joint team planned to develop the pilot project by 2003, and begin full-scale manufacturing of the helicopter for the Korean Armed Forces by 2008. KAL has jointly produced Black Hawk helicopters for the Korean military, the first of which entered service in 1990. However, KAL only conducted assembly production using Sikorsky technology.

AgustaWestland and Eurocopter were also expected to bid. Eurocopter will base its proposal on the EC155.

Given the dearth of technology needed to manufacture attack helicopters, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will have to push for a partnership with a major foreign helicopter maker. KAI has been designated at the lead to conduct full-scale development. In addition, the cost of the program will be great -- reportedly expected to cost $12.5 billion spread out over a 30-year period.

The research budget was W2 trillion ($1.7 billion), and a production budget of W13 trillion. This makes it the largest defense project. The plan was for the initial transport helicopters to be developed by 2010 and attack version by 2012. However, by 2008 some of the old helicopters will be retired, posing a gap of two to four years in war-fighting potential. As of late 2003 the plan was to select a foreign company to work with domestic companies by early 2004.

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Page last modified: 11-07-2011 15:45:09 ZULU