SEOUL, South Korea — Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, has signed an agreement with U.S. avionics maker Rockwell Collins to collaborate on upgrading Chinook heavy-lift helicopters operated by South Korea’s Army and Air Force.
The two sides signed a memorandum of understanding to undertake Chinook modifications at the Army Aviation School in Nonsan, 210 kilometers south of Seoul, KAI said in an announcement.
“The pair will technically collaborate on the design, modification, flight tests of the Chinook helicopters,” the release said. “The sides will also explore ways of expanding cooperation on overseas aircraft maintenance, repair and overhaul projects.”
The KAI-Rockwell team will compete with the Korean Air-Boeing team, which signed a similar MoU during the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition last October.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration is scheduled to issue a request for proposals to bidders as early as August.
The Chinook modernization project is aimed at modernizing a total of 27 Chinook helicopters by overhauling their design, engines, avionics, cockpits and others, according to the Army.
The South Korean Army operates about 30 CH-47Ds as utility transports, while the Air Force runs six HH-47Ds mainly for search and rescue. The average age of the CH-47Ds is 37 years, and that of the HH-47Ds is nearly 20 years.
Besides the upgrade effort, the South Korean Army seeks to buy about 10 to 12 CH-47F models from Boeing through a commercial contract, according to Boeing officials.