Despite the lack of major signings and high-level flying demonstrations at the ADEX 2019 show in Seoul, plenty of opportunities are arising as Korea not only continues to acquire sophisticated platforms but also to develop indigenous systems as the country seeks increased self-reliance. The development and maturity of the KF-X project has spurred local defense firms to develop their own solutions to complement the next-generation fighter.
Lignex 1, a major systems provider, recently began development of a long-range air-to-ground missile for the KF-X. A stand-off weapon with a design similar to that of the Taurus KEPD 350, it measures 5 meters long, weighs 3,000 pounds, and has an estimated range of more than 500 km. It features GPS/INS midcourse guidance and has an imaging infrared seeker (IIR). The company said the main development phase will be between 2023 and 2028, with live tests from 2027, in time for the KF-X serial production. Lignex 1 has also developed its own IIR seeker that is intended for a future Korean short-range air-to-air missile project, also for the KF-X.
While many Western countries have abandoned the mobile air defense system, Korea has continued to develop systems such as the K30 Biho tracked twin-30 mm cannon system. The Biho turret has been upgraded and is now mounted on a 6x6 K806 wheeled vehicle with its search radar removed. Shawn Jung, Hanwha’s chief research engineer, air defense systems team, said that it now utilizes the army’s C2 network to warn of incoming threats, as well as an EO/IR turret to acquire the target. The Wheeled Biho, as it is called, will replace the M167 Vulcan system from 2020.
Additionally, Hanwha Defence has unveiled its Next-Generation Air Defence System (NGADS). “Based on experience from our export campaigns in the U.S. and India, we realized that we have to increase the range and capabilities of our land-based systems,” said Jung.
The NGADS features a single 30 mm cannon and a missile module for up to eight short-range or medium-range surface-to-air missiles, or anti-tank guided missile. It also has an AESA search radar that can track fighters at 35 km and a fixed array to detect drones at 15 km. The NGADS is now being marketed to Saudi Arabia, India, Canada, Finland, Indonesia, and the United States.
Regarding future procurements, both Saab and Boeing have confirmed their interest in the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) requirement for two airborne early warning aircraft (AEW) to supplement the Boeing E-7 Peace Eye. Boeing wants to supply more E-7s and update the current ones, while Saab is offering its GlobalEye. Saab said it has learned numerous lessons based on its experience with the Korean maritime patrol aircraft (MPA) procurement, and although media reports suggest that Seoul is leaning towards the Boeing P-8A Poseidon, following U.S. Congressional approval, Saab is keeping its Bombardier Global 6000/6500-based Swordfish bid alive.