South Korean military official has announced that new local-made Surion will be used as the official helicopter of the nation’s defense minister, instead of the UH-60 Black Hawk developed by Sikorsky of the United States.
According to Lee Min-hyung from The Korea Times, this is part of the ministry’s efforts to localize weapons and military equipment.
The Black Hawks are flagship helicopters for ranking Korean military officials and commanders.
The Army has 93 Surion choppers, manufactured by the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The Surion is also used by the fire and police agencies.
“No specific timeline has been fixed, but the plan to replace the UH-60 with the Surion is part of the military’s efforts to raise the global profile of the local military industry,” the official said.
“The move is also in line with global defense trends under which most defense ministers in other countries use domestically made helicopters as their major means of transportation,” he said.
The move will have a ripple effect with other military chiefs are expected to follow in the footsteps of the defense minister by using the Surion for transportation.
But as the plan is still at working-level discussions, it will take some time for the initiative to be realized, according to the military.
The Surion, developed in 2013, is the nation’s first domestic helicopter. But it has been embroiled in a series of scandals surrounding its safety.
The latest in a series of controversies came this July when a Surion helicopter operated by the Marine Corps crashed from an altitude of 10 meters on a test flight at a military airfield.
The military has since formed a joint investigation team with the public sector, which is looking into the cause of the crash.
The accident put a brake on KAI’s plan to export the chopper to the Philippines for months. But the company said last month it had resumed discussions with the country over selling the helicopter.
Philippines President Rodrigo Duterte has also expressed keen interest in the Surion. This June, he visited the headquarters of Korea’s defense ministry in Seoul and visually inspected the helicopter.