MELBOURNE, Australia — Korean Air has delivered its first AH-6 helicopter fuselage built under a contract with Boeing, the South Korean company announced June 26.
Korean Air signed the deal in December 2021 to manufacture eight fuselages for AH-6 helicopters that will undergo final assembly by Boeing Defense, Space and Security.
The AH-6 is a modernized, light attack variant of the MH-6 special operations helicopter, which is based on the MD 500/OH-6 light observation helicopter.
Korean Air did not specify the eventual user of the helicopters, but Boeing has an outstanding order for eight AH-6i helicopters from Thailand. The American firm was awarded a $103 million contract under the Foreign Military Sales program for the helicopters in February 2022, with delivery set for 2024 and 2025.
The Thai AH-6is will be fitted with Wescam MX-10 electro-optic sensors from L3 Harris Technologies, and will be compatible with night vision goggles, according to a 2019 U.S. State Department approval announcement for the proposed sale.
The announcement also said the proposed sale includes 50 Lockheed Martin-made AGM-114R Hellfire missiles; 200 BAE Systems Advanced Precision Kill Weapon System laser-guided 2.75-inch rockets; Hydra unguided rockets; Dillon M134 7.62mm miniguns; and 0.5-inch heavy machine guns.
The Royal Thai Army intends to use the AH-6i to replace its fleet of Bell AH-1F attack helicopters.
Korean Air was the first South Korean company to manufacture the MD 500 helicopter, which is also extensively used by the country’s military. The company has also produced and sold 309 MD 500 helicopters to armed forces, public institutions and private companies from 1977 to 1988, and exported 516 fuselages for the type.
The company has also developed an unmanned MD 500, and plans to collaborate with Boeing to expand its overseas sales and new aircraft development and manufacturing business.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.