South Korea’s KAI looks to develop home-made transport aircraft

South Korea KAI transport aircraft
South Korea's KAI is looking to develop its own transport aircraft.

South Korean aerospace company Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) confirmed last week its plan to develop a home-grown multi-mission military transport aircraft.

KAI recently said it had received approval from the South Korea Defense Acquisition Program Administration to launch the project in order to meet domestic demand.

KAI expects future needs for approximately 100 new cargo aircraft for the Air Force, Army and Navy.

This need stems from the nation's plan to become independent of the United States in military operations. South Korean military authorities are looking to acquire more aircraft to be able to autonomously carry out intelligence, reconnaissance and surveillance missions.

Furthermore, KAI believes that increased demand will also be linked to growing non-military threats, such as natural disasters, infectious diseases and humanitarian aid.

The South Korean Armed Forces currently operate around 60 Western-made transport aircraft, including C-130s and CN-235s, mainly for airlift operations and P-3Cs and P-8As for maritime patrol missions.

The transport aircraft segment is an unexplored field for the South Korean company, which last year confirmed that it is looking to make deals with international partners, such as Airbus or Embraer, to support the program.

KAI expects to be able to build its own cargo plane in eight years with an investment of approximately $ 2.7 billion. It also plans to develop a commercial variant of the aircraft, with a capacity of 100 seats.

According to KAI, the transport aircraft market is not as profitable as that for combat aircraft, but it offers good returns from maintenance and repair activities.

Written by Matteo Sanzani
Image: USAF/SrA John Linzmeier

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