Korea Utility Helicopter demonstrates capabilities The Korea Utility Helicopter (KUH), Surion, flies over an air base in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, in a ceremony to mark its successful initial test flights. / Korea Times photo by Hong In-ki By Jung Sung-ki Staff reporter The prototype of the troop-carrying Korea Utility Helicopter (KUH) demonstrated its capabilities to the public Tuesday after three months of flight tests. In a ceremony to mark the KUH's successful initial test flights from March 11 to June 7, the locally developed aircraft, named "Surion," gave a 20-minute performance which showed it soaring, stationary hovering, S-shaped maneuvering and diving. The ceremony was held at an air base in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, before a crowd of 400 guests. The improved performance followed Surion's maiden flight March 10 when the 8.7-metric-ton aircraft demonstrated a stationary hover at 30 feet about seven months after its rollout. The helicopter, which can carry two pilots and 11 troops, was jointly built by the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Eurocopter, a subsidiary of the European defense group EADS. "The initial flight tests have successfully completed, proving the KUH's stable performances," a spokesman for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said. Surion succeeded in performing a hover at 2,000 feet during the tests, he said. The test flights will continue through September before initial production of the helicopter. Mass production is to begin by March 2012. The KUH program was started in 2006 to produce about 240 utility helicopters to replace the Army's UH-1H and 500MD helicopters. In 2006, KAI and Eurocopter inked a 1.3 trillion-won ($1.1 billion) research-and-development contract, Seoul's biggest arms deal ever with a non-U.S. company. A production contract worth about 4.4 trillion won is expected to be signed around 2011. The companies plan to set up a joint venture firm to market the KUH globally. The Surion has a top speed of 240 kilometers per hour, according to KAI. It can hover at 9,258 feet with a climbing speed of 500 feet per minute and stay in the air well over two hours. The helicopter also features a four-axis digital automatic flight-control system and a cockpit with multifunctional liquid crystal displays. Defense capabilities includes laser warning receivers, a missile warning system, chaff and flare dispensers, and an electronic warfare system.