First 737 AWACS Arrives in South Korea

 - August 8, 2011, 5:20 AM
Boeing delivered the first of four 737 AWACS aircraft to South Korea under the Peace Eye program. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing delivered the first of four modified 737-700IGW airborne warning and control system (AWACS) aircraft to South Korea, the second nation after Australia to receive the airborne radar platform. The first E-737 ordered under South Korea’s Peace Eye program arrived August 1 at Gimhae air force base, Yonhap News Agency reported, citing the Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The aircraft was flown from Boeing facilities in Seattle, where mission system testing was performed. It will undergo flight and acceptance before being handed over to the air force in early September, DAPA stated.

Three nations–Australia, South Korea and Turkey–have ordered a total of 14 737 AWACS aircraft in slightly different configurations, but all carrying the Northrop Grumman multi-mode electronically scanned array (MESA) “top hat” radar, providing 360-degree surveillance. Developmental problems associated with integrating the MESA radar for Australia’s Wedgetail program delayed deliveries to that country by four years. Boeing initially delivered four of six aircraft sought by the Royal Australian Air Force with some systems missing. In a June briefing, Boeing said it expects to deliver all six aircraft in full configuration by year-end.

Korea Aerospace Industries is modifying the remaining three Peace Eye aircraft for South Korea, and delivery is scheduled for next year. Turkey has ordered four aircraft under the Peace Eagle program. Three aircraft were completed and undergoing verification testing in Seattle and Ankara, Turkey, with the fourth aircraft being modified, Boeing said. First delivery is planned for the next year’s fourth quarter.

Boeing reported further interest in the 737 AWACS from India, the UAE and Japan, with sales of 15 or more aircraft possible. The company now is looking into expanding the aircraft’s mission set to include unmanned aircraft system command and control and missile defense. Boeing no longer designates the 737 as an airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) platform, saying the operational performance of Wedgetail shows “it is an interoperable peer” with U.S. and coalition E-3 AWACS aircraft.