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South Korea sanctions LAH production programme

South Korea's DAPA has approved funding worth USD4.3 billion for the programme to mass-produce Korea Aerospace Industries' Light Armed Helicopter, which is pictured above undergoing cold-weather trials in early 2022. (KAI)

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has approved the mass production of Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI's) Light Armed Helicopter (LAH), the agency has announced.

DAPA said in a notice on 28 November that the LAH production programme has been budgeted KRW5.75 trillion (USD4.3 billion) between 2022 and 2031. In the same notice, DAPA also approved the acquisition of additional attack helicopters as well as projects to develop new rockets and munitions.

A source with knowledge of the LAH programme told Janes on 29 November that DAPA and KAI are expected to sign a contract for an initial batch of LAHs before the end of December. The source said this initial batch will feature “about 170 units”. Deliveries could start from 2024.

The LAH programme will replace the Republic of Korea (RoK) Army's ageing Hughes MD 500MD/BGM-71 TOW Defender and Bell AH-1S Cobra helicopters.

KAI rolled out the first LAH prototype in December 2018, and the aircraft, developed in collaboration with Airbus Helicopters, conducted its first flight in July 2019. The LAH is based around the Airbus Helicopters H155 (formerly the EC155 B1) twin-engined platform.

Janes has previously reported that the LAH's most notable feature is the turreted 20 mm Gatling gun under its nose. The helicopter also features stub wings provisioned to carry rocket pods; a nose-mounted electro-optic/infrared (EO/IR) sensor; fuselage- and tail-mounted missile warning receivers; and upwards-directed exhausts for a reduced IR signature.

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