The KAI KUH-1 was developed to replace the UH-1H utility helicopters and 500MD light utility helicopters that have served for decades in the Korean military.

South Korea is promoting the development of the defense industry, with the ambition to become a leading arms exporter in the world. For military helicopters, the latest product from Korea is the KUH-1 Surion – a twin-engine, transport utility helicopter developed primarily by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), jointly with Eurocopter. The project was launched in 2006, with the first flight on March 10, 2010, and officially put into operation in May 2013.

The KAI KUH-1 was developed to replace the UH-1H utility helicopters and 500MD light utility helicopters that have served for decades in the Korean military. Civilian and law enforcement variants were also developed.

KUH-1 Surion

Essentially, the KAI KUH-1 Surion is a twin-engine medium-sized multipurpose rotorcraft, carrying up to nine troops along with a crew of four in a utility transport capacity. 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.

Surion is designed with a payload of about 3.75 tons, a length of 19 m, a height of 4.5 m, an empty weight of 5.13 tons, and a maximum take-off weight of 8.7 tons. The KUH-1 takes a lot of Eurocopter inspiration, with its rounded edges, deep fuselage and roof-mounted twin engine configuration – an appearance not unlike the French Super Puma line.

Power is provided by a pair of Hanwha Techwin T700-701K turboshaft engines, a licence-built localized development of the General Electric T700, each delivers 1,915 horsepower maximum. The helicopter has a cruise speed of 283 km/h, range of 562 km, service ceiling of 4,595 m (15,075 ft), and Rate of climb of 8.5 m/s.

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. Various electronic defensive measures are incorporated onto the Surion, such as a countermeasures dispenser system (CMDS), radar warning receiver (RWR), laser warning receiver (LWR).

KUH-1 is highly expected for export potential. KUH-1E is an export version that can perform both utility and attack missions. It features stub wings able to mount gun pods, anti-tank and anti-aircraft missiles, and rocket pods; is fitted with the Garmin G5000H touch-screen glass-integrated avionics system, TACS II traffic collision avoidance system, and a three-dimensional weather radar in the nose.

The South Korean company did not reveal specific target customers, but indicated the armed helicopter would be able to compete in the markets of Southeast Asia, South America and Africa.

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