Raytheon and Korean Air’s Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) announced a partnership on October 15 to pursue the Republic of Korea’s Air Force’s (RoKAF) Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) program, marketed as ISTAR-K. Under the exclusive collaboration agreement, Raytheon will be the prime contractor and provide multiple-intelligence, or Multi-INT, technologies for the aircraft, while KAL will deliver design, logistics, and life-cycle support services.
Under a tripartite collaboration with Bombardier, KAL will modify a Global 6500 business jet into a SIGINT/ISR platform, similar in some respects to the Royal Air Force’s Sentinel R1 and UAE's Project Dolphin. Based on Raytheon’s proposal, there will be four aircraft in the package, as well as both fixed and mobile ground-based stations. The cabin will have stations for eight crew, including two battlefield command and control operators and four intelligence operators.
KAL currently holds maintenance certificates for the Global 6500 and modified the Falcon 2000 into a SIGINT platform for the RoKAF. The main modification for the Korean Global program is the integration of ground moving target indicator radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) capabilities. It will feature ELINT and COMINT capabilities and have both line-of-sight (LOS) and beyond-LOS communications.
Roy Azevedo, v-p and president of Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems, said that the company is still evaluating OEMs for the radar systems, a process scheduled to complete in one to two years. Both Raytheon and KAL are awaiting an RFP from the Korean government, expected sometime in late 2021. Currently, the RoKAF’s ISR capabilities are provided by 125 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying the Hawker BAe125-800SIG, BAe125-800RA, and Falcon 2000S SIGINT, all based at Seongnam airbase south of Seoul.
Meanwhile, KAL-ASD has completed the development of the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV for the RoKAF and is hopeful of a contract signing with the government in 2020, leading to serial production in 2021. The UAV measures 13 meters long, 25 meters in span, and is powered by a 1,200-shp Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A engine, giving it an endurance of 24 hours.
Nam Kwang Mo, KAL-ASD’s general manager, defense business development team, told AIN that the UAV is a 100 percent indigenous project, with 50-60 engineers dedicated to the platform. Currently the primary payloads are the LIGNex1 SAR and Hanwha EO/IR sensor, although Nam added there could be new variants in the future, based on the government’s requirements.