Boeing and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) have emerged as the only bidders for South Korea's airborne early-warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft programme, with L-3 Communications having elected to team up with IAI instead of seeking a prime role.

South Korea handed Boeing and IAI a request for proposals (RFP) on 12 March for four AEW&C aircraft, to be delivered from 2008. Boeing is to propose a 737-based solution with Northrop Grumman's Mesa radar, similar to the aircraft already sold to Australia and Turkey. IAI will present a Gulfstream 550 with Elta's Phalcon radar, having decided against offering an Ilyushin Il-76 equipped with the system.

L-3 and Thales, which were considering offering Airbus A320-based solutions, decided against signing up for last week's briefing.

Industry sources say L-3 is seeking to test and integrate the mission system on the G550. By handing part of the integrator role to L-3 and selecting a US-made aircraft, IAI's bid exceeds 51% US content. As a result, the US government must support both bids. South Korea has requested at least 30% national content on the aircraft, which could leave potential prime contractor IAI with less than a 20% stake.

The lack of competition has, however, prompted South Korea to decide against requesting a specific aircraft size in the RFP. Seoul is believed to favour an aircraft with 10 or more consoles, but specifying this would have ruled out the G550 bid and removed any opposition to Boeing's proposal. IAI is trying to persuade Seoul that six consoles are adequate for its new AEW&C mission and that the G550 is more cost-effective.

AgustaWestland, Bell Helicopter, Boeing, Eurocopter, Kaman, Sikorsky and a possible consortium of Russian manufacturers represented by Rosoboronexport have signed up to attend a 16 March briefing and RFP release event to assist Korea Aerospace Industries in developing an indigenous multirole helicopter. The concerns will be asked to propose arrangements for developing the Korean Multirole Helicopter, a new aircraft with attack and utility variants.


Source: Flight International