Five-year procurement plan includes attack helicopters and UAVs as well as second batch of combat aircraft

South Korea's defence ministry will acquire its next batch of fighters in 2009 and launch new attack helicopter and unmanned air vehicle procurements by 2008 as part of a five-year procurement plan unveiled last week.

About $5 billion will be earmarked from 2009 for new fighters, potentially a second batch of 40 Boeing F-15Ks with Raytheon APG-63(V) 3 active electronically scanned array radars. But industry sources say some factions are pushing for a new fighter contest.

South Korea's air force and Boeing have been lobbying the defence ministry to launch an acquisition of additional F-15Ks next year to avoid a production gap after the last of 40 aircraft now on order are delivered (Flight International, 5-11 April). The defence ministry has so far decided against including additional aircraft in its 2006 budget request.

Seoul plans to begin research and development over the next five years for a separate fighter programme, which could see a contest in 2011-15. Industry sources say it will seek a fighter between the F-15 and the Lockheed Martin F-16 in capability – possibly the Lockheed F-35 Joint Strike Fighter or a new indigenous aircraft.

A $440 million R&D effort will be launched next year for an indigenous medium-altitude UAV, with a $210 million high-altitude UAV effort to follow in 2008. The new air vehicles – along with four airborne early warning and control aircraft to be acquired later this year, will enable South Korea to decrease its reliance on the USA for intelligence gathering.

The defence ministry will also next year request approval for its SAM-X surface-to-air missile programme, although sources say the plan's $1 billion allocation will only fund the purchase of secondhand Raytheon PAC-2 missiles from Germany.

Around $2.4 billion has also been earmarked to begin an attack helicopter acquisition in 2008, following the 2004 cancellation of the Korean Multirole Helicopter project. New GPS-guided bombs will be acquired from 2007 and a $390 million large transport aircraft programme launched in 2009.

The five-year spending plan outlines a gradual increase in the defence budget from 2.5% to 2.7% of GDP by 2010.


Source: Flight International