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Picture: South Korea selects Boeing 737-based AEW&C system over Gulfstream G550 platform

By Brendan Sobie in London

South Korea has selected the Boeing 737 with Northrop Grumman Mesa radar over the Gulfstream G550 platform with Elta Phalcon radar in its long-running four-aircraft airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) competition.

The South Korean Defence Acquisition and Programme Agency (DAPA) says it decided today only the 737-based solution (a Boeing artist's impression of which is pictured below) meets all the requirements of its AEW&C programme. DAPA originally was planning to select a winner at a May acquisition meeting but twice delayed its decision to give Israel Aircraft Industries (IAI) and US partner DRS Technologies more time to guarantee they can overcome US export restrictions.

Boeing 737 AEW&C Korea W445
© Boeing

Flight reported earlier this year that DRS secured a marketing license to provide unclassified data on the proposed communications suite but did not have a license to provide classified data and did not have technical assistance agreements in place. The IAI-led team tried to persuade Seoul it could secure the required licences and agreements after contract award but in the end DAPA decided selecting IAI contingent on the licenses being secured later was risky and did not meet its requirements for the acquisition.

Boeing secured the required licences and forged technical assistance agreements with all its partners several months ago. It has lobbied Seoul the last two years for a sole source contract on the grounds the IAI solution, which originally included a communications suite from L-3, did not meet the requirement. But Korea, reluctant to go forward with the programme without a more robust competition, repeatedly delayed the acquisition and several times issued new request for proposals.

The selection today of the 737, which has always been considered a heavy favourite, paves the way for Seoul to enter into sole source negotiations with Boeing. A contract should be concluded within the next few months. It will be Boeing’s third contract for its 737-based AEW&C solution, following Australia and Turkey.
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