South Korea has signed a preliminary deal with the UAE to sell midrange surface-to-air missiles to the Gulf country, as defense cooperation between the two nations continues to deepen.
The deal was signed after South Korean President Moon Jae-in—on a six-day, mid-January Middle East trip that also includes visits to Saudi Arabia and Egypt—held talks with UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum, in Dubai. Seoul's presidential office confirmed the talks without providing further details, including the value of the memorandum of understanding.
Korean news agency Yonhap cited reports that indicated the value of the deal was likely to reach $3.5 billion. Janes said the UAE’s Ministry of Defense announced plans to acquire the missiles on November 16, a date that coincides with Day Three of last year’s Dubai Airshow. South Korean troops have been on the ground in the UAE since 2011 to train service personnel and protect Korean nationals “in emergencies,” according to the news agency.
“The M-SAM system, called Cheongung II, is a core element of South Korea's multilayered anti-missile program,” Yonhap said on January 17. “Employing ‘hit-to-kill’ technology, the missile is designed to intercept hostile missiles coming in at altitudes below 40 kilometers.”
In Saudi Arabia, Moon and Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman discussed potential deals on defense and weapons systems, as well as Korea's nuclear fusion reactors, according to presidential spokesman Park Kyung-mee. South Korea has been in negotiations with Saudi Arabia to sell advanced weapons to Riyadh. Moon told the crown prince that he expected positive results from the negotiations, Park said. In 2009, Korea Electric Corporation led the winning $20 billion bid to build the UAE’s first nuclear power plant.
Moon had to cancel talks on January 17 with Abu Dhabi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Zayed Al Nahyan due to what Emirati officials called “an unforeseen and urgent matter of state,” the Korea Herald said.
In December, Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI) completed a deal with the state arms procurement agency, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), to develop reconnaissance airplanes by the end of 2026 for the South Korean Air Force. Reports put the value of the deal at $674 million.
“KAI said it will convert four Falcon 2000LXS business jets from French aircraft manufacturer Dassault Aviation into intelligence, reconnaissance, and surveillance aircraft,” Yonhap said. “KAI and Dassault signed a memorandum of understanding for the project at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition in October.”
Korea’s sole aircraft manufacturer, KAI, also received a $101 million airplane parts order from Boeing on November 15, to supply tail wing part “terminal fittings” for Boeing's B787 passenger jets from 2023 to 2027, a company regulatory filing said.
KAI, which won a spate of earlier deals to manufacture wing and body parts for Airbus and Boeing jets, saw the agreements almost come to a halt early last year due to the Covid-19 pandemic but forecasts that the parts deals will pick up in late 2022 or early 2023, Yonhap said.
South Korea has succeeded in securing Indonesia’s continued participation in KAI’s KF-21 fighter aircraft development program after the spread of Covid-19 prompted fears that the Southeast Asian nation might be unable to keep abreast of its commitments to fund 20 percent of the program in a deal made in 2010. The program is also owned 60 percent by Korea and 20 percent by KAI.
“Indonesia will make payments over the next five years until 2026, and 30 percent of that would be in-kind transfers,” the Korea Herald quoted DAPA as saying. The KF-21 "Boramae" 4.5 generation fighter underscores regional players’ efforts to wean air forces off reliance on the U.S.-made F-35, which is seen as more expensive and better able to evade detection.