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Boeing and IAI expect Seoul lift

But Embraer drops out of South Korea’s call for AEW&C

Boeing and Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) expect South Korea to select one of their airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) solutions by year-end, concluding a long-delayed competition for four aircraft. Proposals for the Boeing 737 with Northrop Grumman Mesa radar and Gulfstream G550 with IAI’s Phalcon radar were submitted last month and are now being evaluated.

Embraer was the only other manufacturer to receive the tender, but decided against bidding because the “ERJ-145 falls short on some of the mandatory requirements”, says an Embraer source. Boeing and IAI say their proposals are similar to what they submitted last year before the programme was delayed, restructured and re-launched.

IAI vice-president for marketing and business development Josef Fishman says IAI has had to line up a new undisclosed US partner to replace L-3 Communications as communications suite supplier. But he says the vendor switch does not significantly alter IAI’s proposal because “the communications part is one of the smallest parts of this large system”. He says IAI’s solution still has over 50% content and qualifies as a US solution.

Northrop claims only the Mesa radar can meet South Korea’s requirement for radar coverage. “In our judgement the requirement can’t be met with [IAI’s] approach,” says Northrop airborne surveillance director and chief engineer Robert Hendrix, adding a 737 with Mesa “is a low-risk solution to the E-X requirement”.

Boeing vice-president for airborne intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance Patrick Gill says the tender was revised this year to allow the defence ministry to enter into contract negotiations with one company should the other bidder fail the evaluation phase. Boeing was upset last year it was not awarded a sole source contract after Phalcon failed the test evaluation phase. But Fishman disagrees Phalcon is inferior to Mesa and denies it failed an evaluation last year.

“We are here because we passed the evaluation and we will pass again…Korea will select what is most cost effective.” Boeing flew the second Wedgetail aircraft to the Seoul air show, its first overseas deployment.

The first Wedgetail was flown to Australia in March, where it is now undergoing further testing.

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