S. Korea's light armed helicopter project passes low-temperature flight test in Canada

By Kim Joo-heon Posted : February 18, 2022, 14:34 Updated : February 25, 2024, 01:47

[Courtesy of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration]

SEOUL -- The development of South Korea's first light-armed helicopter crossed a major hurdle in the assessment of its effectiveness and suitability for combat, about four years after a prototype was released in 2018. The nine-week test was done in a Canadian territory with an average winter temperature of minus 32 degrees Celsius.

The test of the light-armed helicopter (LAH) developed by the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was carried out in Yellow Knife, the capital city of Canada's Northwest Territories near the Arctic, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), a state arms procurement agency. Some 165 items were evaluated through a total of 40 flights.

The helicopter has passed the so-called "soaking" test that exposes aircraft to low temperatures for a long time, verifies operational capabilities, and checks whether various equipment such as the engine is operating normally. "The overseas low-temperature flight test cleared a major hurdle in the evaluation of small attack helicopters" Lee Jong-hwa, a DAPA official in charge of helicopter development, said in a statement on February 18.
The LAH carrying a 20mm machine gun and four anti-tank missiles or 70mm rocket pods has a maximum takeoff weight of 4.9 tons. It is capable of flying at a maximum speed of 324 kilometers (201 miles) per hour. The project is aimed at replacing an aging fleet of light helicopters such as MD500s and AH-1S Cobra. Development will be completed by the end of 2022.

"In addition to the development of small armed helicopters, we will also lead the development of an unmanned system called a game-changer in the future battlefield to help improve the viability of pilots and military personnel," Lee said. Nothing has been fixed, but a military scheme was proposed earlier to utilize light attack helicopters for various missions.

In March 2021, KAI tied up with the Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) on cooperation for a manned and unmanned teaming system. Using IAI's unmanned aerial system technology, KAI would demonstrate an operation system combining loitering munitions and helicopters. A loitering munition, also known as a suicide drone, loiters around the target area for some time and attacks once a target is located. The weapon enables fast reaction times against concealed or hidden targets and allows more selective targeting.
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