On Friday, January 19th, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced that deliveries of Light Armed Helicopter (LAH) by KAI (Korea Aerospace Industries) will begin this year.
The first helicopter from a low rate initial production (LRIP) is currently in the final assembly phase. Then this year it will be handed over to the ordering administration. After completing inspections and acceptance tests, deliveries of the helicopters to the Army Aviation Command will begin, where it will gradually replace the AH-1J/S Cobra and MD 500 Defender helicopters.
The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea launched the KHP (Korean Helicopter Program) in 2004, the aim of which was to develop Korean multi-role and attack helicopters, including LAH light attack helicopters. As part of the KHP program, multi-role KUH-1 Surion transport helicopters based on Eurocopter AS532 UC/AC Cougar were developed and Boeing AH-64E Apache Guardian attack helicopters were purchased.
On July 7th, 2011, DAPA decided that the LAH light attack helicopter would be developed by KAI. In March 2015, KAI decided to choose the Airbus H155, previously known as Eurocopter EC155 B1, as the basis for the development of LAH – agreements were signed for technology transfer, exclusive production and prevention of internal competition, and in June work on LAH begun.
The LAH prototype premiered on December 18th, 2018. Then, on July 4th, 2019, it successfully made its first flight, and on December 11th, 2020, the LAH was certified.
Therefore, on December 23, 2022, DAPA and KAI signed a contract worth KRW 302 billion to start serial production, including 10 LAH helicopters and a training and logistics package. Deliveries are scheduled for December 2024. On December 27, 2023, the second production contract worth KRW 1.4 trillion was signed, and the first deliveries are scheduled for winter 2025.
The LAH is equipped with a TADS (Target Acquisition Designation System) electro-optical sensor from Hanwha Systems and a 3 barrel 20mm TGS (Turretted Gun System) autocannon from SNT Dynamics, which are connected to the pilot’s HMD display, enabling operation in Stow/ Fixed/Flex/MBR modes.
The main armament is two pods for 2.75-inch (70 mm) guided or unguided rockets or four TAipers anti-tank guided missiles from Hanwha Aerospace. Serial production of the missiles began in 2023, and entry into service is scheduled for 2026. The missiles have a mass of 35 kg, a range of 8 km and the ability to penetrate rolled armor steel (RHA) with a thickness equivalent of 1,000 mm. The missile uses a dual IIR/CCD infrared and charge-coupled devices camera module from LIG Nex1, fire-and-forget/fire-and-update mode, and direct guidance, Lock-On After Launch (LOAL) and Non Line Of Sight (NLOS) capability, thanks to fiber optic cable technology.