South Korean Marine Corps MUH-1 Marineon Helicopter Crashes During Test Flight, Five Killed

A Republic of Korea Marine Corps (ROKMC) MUH-1 Marineon helicopter crashed in Pohang in the North Gyeongsang Province of South Korea, on Tuesday, killing five passengers.

The MUH-1 Marineon, an ROKMC variant of the KAI KUH-1 Surion military helicopter, was performing a test flight after repairs at the base, when it went down from a 10-meter altitude, at about 4:46 p.m. local time, and caught on fire. This was the first time that a Surion helicopter has had a fatal crash in South Korea.

“The helicopter crashed while it was on its test flight. The military will launch an investigation team to find the exact reasons for the accident,” an official said.

Five out of the six passengers were killed, and the injured person was taken to the hospital. An investigation committee will be formed, to determine the cause of the crash, Marine Corps officials have announced.

South Korea’s Army has grounded more than 90 Surion helicopters in service as safety concern has grown since the deadly crash.

“We will review whether to resume the operation (of the choppers) after the results of the probe come out,” the Army official said.

A CCTV footage, appears to have been taken from a surveillance camera at the airfield in Pohang, shows the main rotor detaching from the helicopter.

KAI KUH-1 Surion is a twin-engine, transport utility helicopter developed primarily by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and Korea Aerospace Research Institute (KARI) jointly with Eurocopter.

In 2006, the research and development phase of the Korea Helicopter Project – Korea Utility Helicopter (KHP-KUH), costing around 1.3 trillion won ($1.2 billion), was launched by the Agency for Defense Development. In 2012, full-scale production of the Surion commenced; KAI has been designated as the principal manufacturer of the type.

An initial force of around 245 Surions have been ordered by the Republic of Korea Army to replace their aging fleets of UH-1H utility helicopters and 500MD light utility helicopters, which have been in service for decades.

The MUH-1 Marineon has a 96 percent part commonality with the Surion. The Marineon is optimized for shipborne and maritime operations, with integrated flotation system, long-range wireless communications equipment, a tactical air navigation system (TACAN) and an extra fuel tank. The helicopter was also equipped with folding landing gear to aid shipborne operations and a flame-retardant apparatus on the fuselage to prevent fires.

The helicopter can carry up to nine people and is armed with two 7.62mm machine guns.

The Marine Surion first flew on 19 January 2015. In December 2016, KAI secured a contract to deliver 30 Surions to the Marine Corps, with the first two delivered in January 2018. The crash is expected to put a hold on the Marines’ plan to adopt 28 helicopters by 2023.

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