UAE partners with South Korea for transport aircraft development

KAI MC-X multirole cargo transport concept model
KAI MC-X multirole cargo transport concept model.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) have signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with South Korea for strategic defence industrial cooperation as well as joint development of a multirole transport aircraft, the UAE government announced on 16 January.

The MoU for industrial cooperation was exchanged on by Tareq Abdul Raheem al Hosani, Secretary-General of the Tawazun Council, with the South Korean Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) Minister, Eom Dong-hwan.

Separately, the agreement for joint multirole transport aircraft development was signed between al Hosani and Kang Gu-young, CEO of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

Under the conditions of the MoU, both parties will undertake joint investment, research, and development for the project. This will “further develop bilateral co-operation in the defense industry”, DAPA announced on 16 January.

Details of the proposed aircraft design were not revealed, but AMR reported in September 2022 that KAI has conceptualised a new turbofan-powered multirole transport aircraft tentatively named MC-X.

While it is currently an unsolicited proposal, a KAI official told AMR at that time that the company is in discussion with the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) to understand expected its future transport requirements. The service currently operates 12 Lockheed Martin C-130H/C-130H-30 and four C-130J-30 turboprop tactical transport aircraft, four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transport (MRTT) which can undertake both air-to-air refuelling and personnel/cargo delivery missions, and around 20 CN-235-100/220 aircraft configured for transport missions.

“We believe that the MC-X will be able to enter production by the early 2030s using our current development capabilities,” said the official, adding that the RoK army and navy could also be potential customers with specialised capabilities such as special forces and maritime patrol for their respective operational requirements.

According to company specifications, the MC-X is expected to be a twin-engine aircraft – some 40.3 m long, 13.5 m tall, and 41.1 m in span – with a maximum take-off weight would be 92,000 kg with a payload capacity of up to 30,000 kg. It will be equipped with 30,000 lb-class turbofan engines that are expected to offer a maximum speed of 926 km/h and cruising range of 7,000 km.

The official also added that while the company is initially planning to develop and manufacture the aircraft as an in-house project, it is possible that a foreign industry partner could be sought depending on subsequent technical assessments.

With the UAE’s involvement, it may well indicate that the MC-X concept could be a step closer to reality.

by Jr Ng