Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is largely recognized in military markets for its capable KAI/Lockheed product known as the T-50 "Golden Eagle", an advanced, two-seat jet-powered trainer with secondary combat qualities. The aircraft was introduced in 2005 and has seen some 82 built in trainer and attack configurations. Relatively new to the KAI lineup is the KUH-1 "Surion", a medium-lift transport helicopter of indigenous South Korean development and manufacture. The Surion was born from the 2006 "Korea Helicopter Project - Korea Utility Helicopter" (KHP-KUH) initiative which ultimately produced the working product by 2010 (and gave it its "KUH" portion of the designation). The South Korean Army has since taken delivery of some ten or more helicopters and these serving to train army aviators. The Republic of Korea Army (ROKA) expects to procure some 245 units in all and these will serve to replace an outgoing helicopter attack fleet consisting of Cold War-era, American-originated Bell UH-1 "Huey"/"Iroquois" gunship helicopters as well as their lighter Hughes/McDonnell Douglas 500MD counterparts.
Design and development of the KUH-1 was completed, in part, with assistance from Eurocopter engineers and, as such, takes on a decidedly European appearance with its rounded edges, deep fuselage and roof-mounted twin engine configuration - an appearance not unlike the French Eurocopter/Airbus "Super Puma" line.
The Surion's cockpit seats two (side-by-side) and is conventionally set at the front aft of a short nose assembly. The cockpit sports heavy use of bulletproof windscreens (up to 7.62mm small arms) to supply optimal views and improve situational awareness. Each pilot is granted access to a Helmet-Mounted Display (HMD) system built by the Israeli concern of Elbit. The passenger cabin is spacious and can be outfitted with various components to suit mission requirements - moving combat infantry, wounded or equipment. The main rotor blade features four blades and sits low against the roofline, coupled with an anti-torque four-bladed tail rotor offset to starboard on the tail fin. The tail fin also features a portside horizontal plane. The passenger cabin is accessed through windowed sliding doors along the sides. The engines are mounted over the passenger cabin and are well-contoured for aerodynamic efficiency while being aspirated through two intakes at the front of the design, just aft of the cockpit. The undercarriage is wheeled and consists of three legs - two main single-wheeled units and a double-tired nose leg. Safety features include several wire cutters over and under the cockpit, crashworthy airframe and sealed fuel tanks against 12.7mm/14.5mm heavy small arms.
Power is through 2 x Samsung Techwin T700-ST-701K turboshaft engines rated at up to 1,915 shaft horsepower driving the main and tail rotors. These engines are based on the American General Electric T700-GE-701C series turboshafts. The aircraft sports a cruising speed of 160 miles per hour with a range out to 260 miles and service ceiling nearing 9,850 feet. The craft can reach a rate-of-climb of 1,700 feet per minute. Other specifications include a running length of 62 feet with a rotor diameter of 52 feet and height of 15 feet. Empty weight is listed at 11,000lb with a Maximum Take-Off Weight of 19,200lb.
The Surion is outfitted with the latest in military hardware expected of a modern medium-lift combat platform. This includes GPS navigation, a moving digital map, integrated countermeasures and situational awareness, fatigue reduction qualities, radar/missile warning receivers, and FLIR among others.
In addition to the two operating crew, the aircraft will be able to transport up to sixteen passengers in all. A pair of door gunners can also be deployed though with a slightly reduced passenger-hauling capability. In this way, the aircraft can provide its own self-defense measure through deployment of 2 x 7.62mm General Purpose Machine Guns (GPMGs) on trainable pintle mounts.
Beyond the standard transport model, KAI expects to offer their KUH-1 line in several major configuration types including a dedicated attack platform, an amphibious model to serve South Korean marines and a mission-critical MEDEVAC version. The Surion product is expected to be offered for export to serve South Korean-allied nations.
In the direct-contact armed combat role, the Surion gunship model will feature support for 6 x Hughes BGM-71 TOW wire-guided anti-tank (AT) missiles across hardpoints found on attachable wingstubs. In place of the missile armament for use against armored targets, the helicopter will also support the fielding of rocket and cannon pods for use against "soft" skinned vehicles and troop concentrations.
Production of Surion helicopters began in 2010 and is ongoing as of March 2014. KAI also produces a local variant of the General Dynamics / Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon as the KF-16.