South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has reached an agreement with Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) to develop a new military transport aircraft.
“Currently, there are 30 multipurpose and 70 transport planes operated by the Army, Navy and Air Force. We are targeting to replace the imported aircraft with domestically developed ones and advance to overseas markets with our own planes in the long term,” the company's Executive Vice President Ryu Kwang-su told Yonhap News Agency on the sidelines of a press conference.
If developed, the transport aircraft would be used for multiple purposes, he said.
The plane could be utilized as a reconnaissance plane and a maritime patrol aircraft, as it shares the same platform as a midsized aircraft.
Currently, the Air Force has Lockheed Martin C-130s, Airbus A330 MRTTs and CN-235s serving as transport aircraft. For reconnaissance missions, the service uses Dassault Falcons and Hawker 800s. The Navy has P-3Cs and P-8As for maritime patrol missions. The oldest planes among the P-3C fleet were adopted 25 years ago.
Information that KAI was developing a transport jet started doing rounds around late 2020. A source from KAI told Defense News last November, “For KAI, the transport aircraft market is an unexplored field, which has high potential for localization. The technology intensity of transport aircraft is lower than that of fighter jets, while the market of maintenance, repair and overhaul of transport planes remains profitable.”
An internal analysis of domestic transport aircraft market by the company suggested about 100 transport aircraft would be in demand over the next three decades given the life span of aircraft flown by the military.
KAI reportedly wants to invest $2.7 billion in the project over seven years. The company is said to be eyeing international partnerships with Airbus, Antonov and Embraer.
Following the development of a military version, the company envisages it could modify it into a commercial plane with a seat capacity of 100.