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(LEAD) S. Korean aerospace company in talks with 9 countries to export planes

2017/11/10 17:06

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(ATTN: ADDS U.S. aircraft bid in paras 6-7; CORRECTS Surion helicopter's name in 8th para)

SEOUL, Nov. 10 (Yonhap) -- Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI), the country's sole aircraft manufacturer, said Friday it is in talks with nine countries to export its trainer aircraft.

The company exported a total of 145 trainer planes -- made up of the turboprop KT-1 basic trainer and the supersonic T-50 advanced jet to countries in Europe and emerging markets in Asia, Africa, Latin America and the Middle East. The total value of sales has reached US$3.7 billion so far.

In a press meeting, KAI President and Chief Executive Kim Jo-won said talks with Botswana and Argentina are at an "advanced stage" and "good results" are expected later this year or early next year.

"As the countries with which KAI are in talks are developing economies, they require financial loans from South Korean banks in order to place the aircraft order with KAI," Kim said.

In this photo taken Nov. 10, 2017, KAI President and CEO Kim Jo-won answers questions from reporters in a press meeting held in Seoul. (Yonhap) In this photo taken Nov. 10, 2017, KAI President and CEO Kim Jo-won answers questions from reporters in a press meeting held in Seoul. (Yonhap)

KAI plans to ask the Korea Export-Import Bank of Korea and the Korea Trade Insurance Corporation to extend a loan to help those countries purchase Korean-made trainers, he said.

In other efforts to export its aircraft, KAI has partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp. to participate in the Advanced Pilot Training (APT) project, to supply T-50A advanced trainer jets to the U.S. Air Force.

Lockheed Martin has repeatedly asked KAI to cut the trainer jet prices to win the bid. KAI will do its best to cut the unit price with Lockheed Martin deciding whether to submit an unreasonably low price to beat its archrival Boeing.

With regard to an icing issue in the KUH-1 Surion helicopter, the president said the company will persuade the authorities to allow it to resume deliveries of the rotorcraft by the end of November or late December at the latest.

The suspension came after the Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea (BAI) released a report in July saying that engine parts of the Surion ice up at minus 30 degrees Celsius and could cause serious safety problems. Icing can allow a chopper to lose lift and crash.

The KAI president said Surion helicopters will have no safety problems due to the icing issue if they are deployed domestically. In Korea, the temperature does not fall below minus 30 degrees Celsius during the winter season.

But the company said it will put the Surion to another icing test in Michigan from December to March as it seeks to export the helicopter to countries with sub-zero weather conditions.

Deployment of the Surion helicopters to the Korean military forces began in 2013 and the process has yet to be completed.

The icing issue emerged during the helicopter's winter testing in the United States between October 2015 and March 2016.

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr

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