South Korea plans to procure additional Peace Eagle AEW&C aircrafts

As part of efforts to enhance South Korea’s intelligence, surveillance, target acquisition, and reconnaissance (ISTAR) capabilities the country’s Defense Project Promotion Committee approved on 26 June plans to acquire an undisclosed number of additional airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft and signals intelligence (SIGINT) platforms.

In a statement issued that same day, the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) is aiming to acquire foreign-made AEW&C aircraft by 2027 under a project budgeted at KRW1.59 trillion (USD1.32 billion) that is set to start next year.

South Korea has received four Boeing 737-700 Peace Eye airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft in 2016.

The aircraft was delivered to Gimhae air base, 450km (250 miles) southeast of Seoul, after a flight from Boeing’s production facility in Seattle, said the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

Although, not mentioned in the DAPA statement, it is believed that the service is seeking to acquire two more Boeing E-737 AEW&C platforms to add to the four it has fielded since 2011/2012 under its Peace Eye programme.

DAPA said the planned procurement is meant to “minimise potential surveillance gaps amid growing security threats by neighbouring countries”, particularly as foreign military aircraft continue to enter South Korea’s Air Defence Identification Zone without notice.South Korea has approved a plan to acquire additional AEW&C aircraft to supplement the four E-737 platforms (one of which is shown here) it has fielded since 2011/2012. (Boeing/RoKAF)

South Korea has approved a plan to acquire additional AEW&C aircraft to supplement the four E-737 platforms (one of which is shown here) it has fielded since 2011/2012. (Boeing/RoKAF)

As for the additional SIGINT aircraft, the agency said KRW870 billion have been earmarked for the procurement project, which is set to begin next year and be completed by 2026. No details were provided about the model or number of platforms set to be acquired but the move will be part of the RoKAF’s Paekdu (also known as Baekdu) programme.

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The RoKAF already operates six SIGINT platforms acquired under the programme: two modified Falcon 2000S jets and four Hawker 800 Peace Krypton aircraft.

Peace Eagle

electronically scanned array (MESA) radar includes two side-looking arrays, as well as a top-hat array that uses “endfire” techniques to steer the radar beam forward and aft of the aircraft.

“The so-called ‘top hat’ portion of the MESA radar provides a practical solution for fore and aft coverage, while maintaining the low drag profile of the dorsal array system,” said Boeing. “This allows the system to be installed on the mid-size 737-700 platform, without significant impact on aircraft performance.”

According to DAPA, a single Peace Eye aircraft will be able to monitor the entire Korean peninsula. It can track up to 1,000 airborne or surface targets simultaneously, while also directing combat operations. It carries a flight crew of two and a mission crew of six to 10.

Seoul signed a $1.6 billion deal for the four aircraft in 2006. It is the second customer for the AEW&C variant of the 737-700 commercial airliner in the Asia Pacific region, after Australia.

Australia ordered six of the type under its Wedgetail programme, with initial operating capability expected in December.

Turkey has also purchased four of the aircraft under its Peace Eagle programme.

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