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S. Korea to develop military transport aircraft

All News 12:00 April 04, 2021

By Choi Kyong-ae

SEOUL, April 4 (Yonhap) -- Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI), South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, said Sunday it aims to develop its own transport and multipurpose aircraft for the military.

KAI has reached a consensus with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration on the need to develop transport and multipurpose aircraft to meet domestic demand for the planes, the company's Executive Vice President Ryu Kwang-su told Yonhap News Agency on the sidelines of a press conference.

"Currently, there are 30 multipurpose and 70 transport planes operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force. We are targeting to replace the imported aircraft with domestically developed ones and advance to overseas markets with our own planes in the long term," Ryu said.

If developed, the transport aircraft would be used for multiple purposes, including as a reconnaissance plane and a maritime patrol aircraft, as it shares the same platform as a midsized aircraft, he said.

South Korea is among the world's seven major aircraft manufacturing countries along with the United States, Britain, China, Japan, Russia and the European Union.

In this photo taken on Dec. 2, 2016, an FA-50PH trainer jet built by Korea Aerospace Industries Co. arrives at Clark Air Base. (Yonhap)

KAI is also looking for business opportunities in the fields of urban air mobility, personal air vehicles for civil and military purposes and electrified aircraft, the executive said.

KAI will decide on the type of engine for an electrified aircraft, whether a hybrid or hydrogen fuel-cell electric engine, in the next five years and aims to develop a prototype electrified plane by 2029, he said.

KAI said it will be able to partner with "a local company" in the future mobility business. Hyundai Motor Group appears to be the company's most likely business partner in the field.

On top of efforts to secure a future growth driver, KAI said it will focus on exporting the FA50 light attack aircraft and the Surion (KUH-1) transport utility helicopter to emerging countries this year.

"We expect to export two FA-50s to Thailand this year, while making efforts to sell the aircraft to Colombia and Malaysia, which plans to adopt 36 light attack planes over the next 10 years," the executive said.

KAI used to win deals to manufacture wing and body parts for passenger jets made by Airbus and Boeing Co., but the deals have dried up since early last year due the coronavirus pandemic.

KAI projected Airbus and Boeing will place orders for parts from the second half of 2022 and the first half of 2023, respectively, as more COVID-19 vaccine doses will be administered worldwide.

As for capital expenditures, the company said it will spend 2.2 trillion won (US$1.9 billion) in facilities, research and development activities and stake investments in companies with advanced technologies for five years through 2025.

KAI has set a goal of 5 trillion won in sales in 2025 helped by improving parts orders from the world's two biggest aircraft companies and possible exports of FA-50s and Surion helicopters.

It posted 2.83 trillion won in sales in 2020 amid the pandemic, down 9.9 percent from 3.11 trillion won a year earlier.

This file photo provided by KAI shows the Surion (KUH-1) transport utility helicopter. (PHOTO NOT FOR SALE) (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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