The South Korean Defense Acquisition and Program Administration (DAPA) announced plans to acquire two French Dassault Aviation Falcon-2000 jets on December 26, 2011 to further strengthen the nation’s intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities. South Korean news sources reported that the new aircraft are expected to be placed in service sometime in 2017. The acquisition cost was not announced, but is likely to exceed $32 million per aircraft – the estimated cost of a conventionally-equipped Falcon-2000. Dassault is offering two versions of ‘Multi Mission Falcon” utilizing modified 900 and 2000 platforms, both fitted for maritime surveillance and patrol. The configuration and design of the new ELINT platform has yet to be designed.
South Korean military and intelligence leaders have been subjected to severe domestic criticism for failing to learn of Kim Jong il’s death before a formal North Korean announcement was broadcast among other missed intelligence opportunities.
Many of South Korea’s current aircraft employed in the ISR role are beginning to show their technological weaknesses as more modern and advanced aircraft are appearing in the market. The Falcon-2000’s are likely to be employed as replacements for some of the Raytheon RC-800’s currently in service with South Korean commanders. When compared to the RC-800, the Falcon-2000 carries a larger payload, features technologically-advanced sensors, and has a significantly longer range.
South Korea is expecting the Falcons to provide them with enhanced capabilities to intercept radio signals in the North and to deliver a marked improvement in detecting missile launches.
The Falcon-2000’s will be a welcome addition to four E-737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft recently purchased from Boeing. The first E-737 “Peace Eye” was delivered to South Korea in August 2011 for testing and acceptance. The second aircraft was delivered in December 2011 after modifications were completed by Korea Aerospace Industries. The E-737 is a state-of-the-art surveillance and command aircraft equipped with advanced MESA radar capable of 360 degree coverage and the ability to vector combat aircraft and ships to engage detected targets at distances of up to 500 kilometers.
The Falcon-2000 buy represents a continuation of South Korea’s military modernization program focused on meeting and defeating threats from the North and other potential belligerents in the Asia-Pacific region.