Seoul is buying US and Israeli drones

Seoul plans to spend nearly a trillion won ($900 million) buying four Global Hawn HALE and three Heron I MALE drones from the USA and Israel.

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IAI will supply three Heron I UAS to South Korea, as the first phase of a contract expected to be signed next year. Photo: IAI
Heron UAS are currently operated by several air forces in Asia Pacific, including Australia, India, Indonesia and Singapore and
Heron UAS are currently operated by several air forces in Asia Pacific, including Australia, India, Indonesia and Singapore. Photo: Australian MOD

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) of the Republic of Korea has selected the Heron Medium Altitude, Long Endurance (MALE) Unmanned Aerial System (UAS) from Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) for its corps-level UAS upgrade project. At the same time, in the USA, Northrop Grumman moved forward with the manufacturing of four Global Hawk High Altitude, Long Endurance (HALE) drones for Seoul, under a foreign military sale contract awarded by the US Air Force.

Seoul plans to spend 40 billion won (US$36.5 million) buying three Heron-I drones from Israel by the end of 2015. The drones will support the Korean Army corps deployed along the northwestern frontline, covering the demilitarized zone along the 38th parallel and the northwestern border islands at the yellow sea, as well as inland, near the Seoul metropolitan area. The Global Hawk drones are expected to replace the US Air Force drones currently conducting providing strategic, high altitude recce missions over the Korean peninsula.

Northrop Grumman was awarded the $657 million contract yesterday, to build and deliver four RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawk HALE unmanned aircraft for the Republic of Korea. Seoul expects to pay around 900 billion won ($820 million) for the four drones. The contract also covers four Enhanced Integrated Sensor Suites for the aircraft, two spare engines, and the applicable Ground Control Environment elements. Deliveries will begin in 2017 and end in 2019. This foreign military sales (FMS) contract is managed by the US Air Force on behalf of the Republic of Korea.

[nonmember]Subscribe to read more…[/nonmember][ismember]The current order will provide drones to support immediate requirements for stand-off reconnaissance and surveillance, supporting one of the six army corps expected to remain by 2020, after four of the current 10 will be decommissioned in the next six years. The remaining elements will receive modernized systems, including more MALE UAS.[/ismember]

The IAI Heron-1 is a medium-altitude long-endurance unmanned aerial vehicle with a range of 250 kilometers. It is capable of flying for more than 24 hours, or six times longer than the drones the locally produced KUS-7 and KUS-9 stand-in UAVs supplied to the Korean military since 2007.

[ismember]The MALE UAS acquisition program was launched six years ago, targeting an initial operational capability for a medium altitude, long endurance (MALE) surveillance drone by 2016. Originally the intention was to buy a domestically-built system, developed by Korean Air, at a cost of $375 million, which was set aside to finance the project, but such a capability has not yet matured in the country.

South Korea is expecting foreign manufacturers to assist the local development and production of such a drone in South Korea.[/ismember]

IAI will supply three Heron I UAS to South Korea, as the first phase of a contract expected to be signed next year. Photo: IAI
IAI will supply three Heron I UAS to South Korea, as the first phase of a contract expected to be signed next year. Photo: IAI