Südkorea — Korea utility helicopter soars up to the sky

The maid­en test flight of Korea’s first util­i­ty heli­copter Suri­on was con­duct­ed at the Korea Aero­space Indus­tries on June 22 in Sacheon, South Chungcheong.

The heli­copter flew in the sky for about 20 min­utes, begin­ning with fly­ing in the same place 100 feet above the ground. It also turned its direc­tion 30 degrees to each left and right side.

Korea's first utility helicopter Surion
Korea’s first util­i­ty heli­copter Suri­on
Source: MND, Repub­lic of Korea

A crowd of some 400 mil­i­tary and civil­ian offi­cials watch the maid­en test flight of Korea’s util­i­ty heli­copter Suri­on on June 22 at the Korea Aero­space Indus­tries in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang.

The chop­per showed its rapid maneu­ver­ing capa­bil­i­ties by spin­ning around 360 degrees.

With two pilots and one tech­ni­cian on aboard, the fly­ing per­for­mance showed its soar­ing, sta­tion­ary hov­er­ing, S‑shaped maneu­ver­ing and div­ing.

The helicopter’s name com­bines “suri” mean­ing eagle and “on” mean­ing per­fec­tion.

The improved per­for­mance fol­lowed Surion’s maid­en flight on March 10 when a 8.7‑metric-ton air­craft demon­strat­ed a sta­tion­ary hov­er at 30 feet about sev­en months after its roll­out..

The per­for­mance is orga­nized to intro­duce the process of mak­ing the chop­per and ele­vate people’s inter­est toward the heli­copter. It also aims to boost cred­i­bil­i­ty of domes­tic tech­nol­o­gy of mak­ing heli­copter toward for­eign coun­tries in order to lay a ground work for export­ing the prod­uct in the future.

“Despite the fact that our mil­i­tary ranks in sev­en in the world in oper­at­ing the num­ber of mil­i­tary heli­copter, we have been rely­ing on for­eign coun­tries in import­ing major tech­nolo­gies in devel­op­ing func­tions and main­te­nance,” said Byun Moo-keun, the Com­mis­sion­er of Defense Acqui­si­tion Pro­gram Admin­is­tra­tion, in his speech on behalf of Korea’s Defense Min­is­ter Kim Tae-young. “The suc­cess­ful devel­op­ment of Suri­on has not only led in oper­at­ing the mil­i­tary tac­tics effi­cient­ly but also formed the basis in improv­ing our own aero­space indus­try tech­nol­o­gy.”

Byun also said Korea’s defense capa­bil­i­ties could improve if oth­er heli­copter projects are imple­ment­ed with­out prob­lems.

The test flights will con­tin­ue through Sep­tem­ber before ini­tial pro­duc­tion of the heli­copter. Mass pro­duc­tion is to begin by March 2012.

The gov­ern­ment and pri­vate firms have poured a com­bined 1.3 tril­lion won ($1 bil­lion) into the aircraft’s devel­op­ment since it began in 2006. South Korea has pro­duced pro­peller-dri­ven super­son­ic jets in the past, but the Suri­on makes it one of only 11 coun­tries in the world to turn out an indige­nous heli­copter.

Helped by Europe’s lead­ing heli­copter man­u­fac­tur­er, Euro­copter, Korea Aero­space Indus­tries Ltd. and oth­er local com­pa­nies designed the Suri­on, with 60 per­cent of all parts and com­po­nents being made in the coun­try. Offi­cials have stressed the Surion’s abil­i­ty to serve in both defense and civil­ian roles is sig­nif­i­cant in terms of poten­tial growth.

The Min­istry of Knowl­edge Econ­o­my, which con­tributed heav­i­ly to the project, said the air­craft will help South Korea make inroads into the fierce­ly com­pet­i­tive glob­al aero­space mar­ket. In addi­tion to the pro­to­type, three oth­er air­craft will be built to con­duct var­i­ous flight safe­ty tests. Full-scale pro­duc­tion is to begin in June 2012.

South Korea’s aging fleet of UH-1Hs and 500MD chop­pers, many of which have been in ser­vice for over 30 years, are set to be phased out. Inde­pen­dent sources spec­u­late the South Kore­an mil­i­tary may require as many as 250 Suri­on chop­pers. Seoul also aims to win 300 over­seas mil­i­tary orders for the KUH dur­ing the next 25 years, a gov­ern­ment offi­cial said. That is rough­ly 30 per­cent of the pro­ject­ed glob­al demand for Suri­on-type chop­pers, which are larg­er than the UH‑1 Iro­quois but small­er than the UH-60 Black Hawks.

The Suri­on is designed to fly a ful­ly equipped squad of troops or an equal amount of equip­ment for two hours. It can climb 152 meters per minute and main­tain a sta­ble hov­er at 3,000 meters. Spe­cial empha­sis was placed in the design on meet­ing vari­able com­bat con­di­tions need­ed to ensure the sur­vival of the crew.

Min­istry of Nation­al Defense[MND], Repub­lic of Korea