Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has emerged as the top bidder in South Korea’s second Baekdu signals intelligence (SIGINT) aircraft competition.

The company says that Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration has accepted it as a preferred bidder for the requirement, which will see the acquisition of four SIGINT aircraft.

New Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft introduced in 2018

Source: Korean Air

The RC-2000 SIGINT aircraft is derived from the Falcon 2000S

The company will base its offering on the Dassault Falcon 2000LXS business jet. KAI and Dassault signed a memorandum of understanding related to the Baekdu programme at the recent Seoul ADEX defence show.

KAI aims to lead systems integration work, including the data collection system and communications. The mission equipment for the aircraft will be developed with local company LIG Nex1.

KAI says the value of the deal is W878 billion ($746 million).

The announcement sees KAI see off a rival bid from Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD), which announced its bid in July. 

KAL-ASD was the incumbent, having completed a previous W400 billion Baekdu project between 2011-2018. This saw two Falcon 2000S business jets modified into SIGINT aircraft, using intelligence collection and transmission systems developed by LIG Nex1 and Hanwha Systems. The type is designated RC-2000 in Republic of Korea Air Force service.

The deal will see four new aircraft replace older Baekdu aircraft. The air force operates six Hawker HS125 business jets – designated RC-800 – in the SIGINT/Baekdu role.

The aircraft are named “Baekdu” because their coverage reaches the Baekdu Mountains, in the far Northeast of North Korea.

Corrected: A previous version of this story stated that the competition was still ongoing.