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SEOUL, July 1 (Yonhap) -- Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, has started work on developing a Marine Corps version of its Surion chopper, the government said Monday.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it signed a deal with KAI that calls for the development of systems for an assault helicopter to be used by the country's Marines. A total of 790 billion won (US$693.4 million) is to be injected into the modification process.
The work aims to incorporate various systems so the Surion can fully meet the rigorous requirements necessary to support amphibious landing operations. This calls for the airlifting of troops from ship to shore, and the transport of related equipment.
KAI was tapped by the government in April as the primary negotiating partner for the development of systems for the country's first indigenous amphibious assault helicopter. South Korea wants to deliver 40 machines to the Marines starting in 2017.
"Once the Marine Surion becomes operational, it will give the country's amphibious forces the ability to carry out independent landing maneuvers," a DAPA source said.
South Korea poured 1.3 trillion won into building the Surion helicopter, or the Korean Utility Helicopter, with work starting in June 2006 and running through June 2012.
The chopper has state-of-the-art electronics and avionics that allow it to operate in all weather conditions. It has advanced navigation and cargo-carrying capabilities needed to support air assault operations.
Seoul already placed orders for 200 units in May to serve with the South Korean Army. These machines will replace the old 500MD and UH-1 helicopters in the military's inventory.
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