South Korea has received the first of four Boeing 737-700 Peace Eye airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) system aircraft.
The aircraft was delivered to Gimhae air base, 450km (250 miles) southeast of Seoul, after a flight from Boeing's production facility in Seattle, said the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
DAPA will conduct flight tests on the aircraft before passing it to the Republic of Korea Air Force in September.
The aircraft has already undergone mission system flight testing in the US. The remaining three aircraft are being modified by Korea Aerospace Industries at its Sacheon facility. They will be delivered in 2012.
"The 737 AEW&C gives Korea a powerful capability for airborne surveillance, communications and battle management," said Boeing. "It also provides increased security for the Korean peninsula against today's threats and threats in the future."
The 737 AEW&C features Northrop Grumman's unique approach to achieving 360° radar coverage. The multi-role electronically scanned array (MESA) radar includes two side-looking arrays, as well as a top-hat array that uses "endfire" techniques to steer the radar beam forward and aft of the aircraft.
"The so-called 'top hat' portion of the MESA radar provides a practical solution for fore and aft coverage, while maintaining the low drag profile of the dorsal array system," said Boeing. "This allows the system to be installed on the mid-size 737-700 platform, without significant impact on aircraft performance."
According to DAPA, a single Peace Eye aircraft will be able to monitor the entire Korean peninsula. It can track up to 1,000 airborne or surface targets simultaneously, while also directing combat operations. It carries a flight crew of two and a mission crew of six to 10.
Seoul signed a $1.6 billion deal for the four aircraft in 2006. It is the second customer for the AEW&C variant of the 737-700 commercial airliner in the Asia Pacific region, after Australia.
Australia ordered six of the type under its Wedgetail programme, with initial operating capability expected in December.
Turkey has also purchased four of the aircraft under its Peace Eagle programme.
Source: Flight International