Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd. (KAI) has been tapped to develop a dedicated medical evacuation helicopter for troops based on the Surion. The Korean government Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has selected KAI as a preferred bidder for the project that will involve 32 billion won in development cost and 260 billion won in domestic production.
The development of the new variant of the Surion, or Korea Utility Helicopter, is slated to be completed in 2016 with operational machines reaching troops in 2018.
The chopper will be equipped with the latest equipment to treat wounded soldiers and transport them to hospital. It will be able to transport up to six people. The chopper will have FLIRs, a forward-looking infrared imaging system, an automatic flight control system, weather radar, a ground collision warning system and other features that will allow it to be operated day or night, and in adverse weather conditions.
In addition, the chopper will have a hoist, extra external fuel tanks,
and a so-called trunked radio system to maintain live communication with the hospital to facilitate treatment on arrival. It will also have the latest medical equipment on board such as a respirator, vital signs monitor, equipment for emergency surgery, and an automated external defibrillator.
"In addition to transporting wounded soldiers, the medical evacuation helicopter will help to lift the morale of troops, along with an upgrade of the fighting performance of troops," said Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd. “The chopper will also contribute to saving lives of civilians when it gets involved in rescue operations in natural disasters," said KAI.
Since a medical evacuation helicopter is slated to be developed based on the Surion, along with the National Police Service's Surion chopper and an amphibious helicopter, attention is now being drawn to the maritime helicopter which the military is weighing the feasibility of introducing.
In 2011, after deciding to import a helicopter model from overseas directly to meet its emergency needs, the military chose to introduce AgustaWestland AW159 helicopters. The military is now weighing the possibility of developing a domestic helicopter based on the Surion in line with its second chopper development project.
A significant portion of technologies employed for the development of a maritime chopper can be shared for development of the National Police Service's chopper, the military’s amphibious helicopter and the medical evacuation chopper. As development risk can be minimized with the project pushed in cooperation with international partners, it will be possible to develop a superb domestic chopper for maritime operations.
Given that some 50 maritime helicopters could be sold in Korea and 200 units in overseas markets, sales of at least 100 choppers are possible and as a result, the project is economically feasible. KAI hopes to replace the some 400 foreign-made helicopters being used by the military and government agencies with domestically developed "derivative choppers of the Surion." The firm is targeting an export of some 300 derivative helicopters.
The development of multipurpose Surion helicopters will bring about positive impacts, including fall-offs in defense expenditures which may arise from savings of massive amounts of foreign currencies and decreases in maintenance costs stemming from the usage of same platforms. Problem associated with the supply of repair parts and maintenance will also be kept to a minimum.