South Korean UAS deals to hinge on Israeli trainer choice

Tel Aviv
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The future of some potential deals to purchase Israeli-made aerial systems by the South Korean defence ministry will depend on whether the Israeli air force selects the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 as its new advanced jet trainer.

South Korea's military has been evaluating several Israeli systems in recent months, including unmanned air systems. Its evaluations are being made with the assistance of Sibat, the Israeli defence ministry division in charge of securing defence exports.

Seoul is focusing its interest in the Israel Aerospace Industries Heron (below) and Elbit Systems Hermes 450 UAS. Its shopping list also includes other systems, but the Israeli companies involved have refused to release more details.

 
© Israel Aerospace Industries

KAI is stepping up its efforts to convince the Israeli air force to select its T-50, with the design facing competition from Alenia Aermacchi's M-346.

 
© Lockheed Martin

Sources related to the competition said on 29 March that while it is not officially stated, the "key people" in Israel are aware of the connection between the selection and the extent of the possible South Korean purchases of equipment from Israel.

South Korea has previously bought Israeli systems such as IAI's Harpy attack drone and the company's Green Pine long-range missile launch detection radar. However, its potential new shopping list has become longer "and more diversified", according to one source.

Meanwhile, a proposed joint venture between Elbit and IAI that would purchase the Israeli air force's favoured trainer design and then sell flight hours to the service at its flight academy should be formally established in the coming days.