South Korea approved a plan Friday to purchase more airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) from overseas as part of efforts to beef up its aerial surveillance capabilities,according to Korea Herald. Under the plan approved by the defense project promotion committee meeting, the country will launch the project next year to introduce more aircraft from overseas by 2027, rather than developing one at home, with a budget of 1.59 trillion won ($1.32 billion), according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has been pushing to buy two more early warning aircraft. Currently, the Air Force operates four Boeing 737-based Peace Eye aircraft since 2011. The AEW&C aircraft equipped with advanced radar systems is designed to detect aircraft and other vehicles at long ranges and conduct command and control of the battlefield in an air engagement by directing strikes by fighter jets. The project aims to better counter growing security threats by neighboring countries and to minimize possible surveillance vacuums.
The committee also approved a project to secure advanced Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft. The plan will be pushed for between 2021 and 2026 with 870 billion won, according to the DAPA. Equipped with a remote control and signaling system, the Baekdu spy planes are supposed to carry out missions to gather signal intelligence from North Korea. Currently, the military operates six units and seeks to replace four of them with advanced ones, according to the DAPA. After buying platforms from overseas, DAPA will equip them with indigenous systems to improve South Korea SIGINT capabilities.
Boeing on Oct. 24 2017 delivered the fourth and final 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) modified and supported testing of the four 737-based Peace Eye aircraft at its facility in Sacheon. Other Korean companies that made key contributions to the AEW&C program include: Korean Air Aerospace Division (technical services, spares and related parts-handling services), LIG Nex1 (networking and training), Samsung Thales (mission crew training), and Huneed Technologies (ground-based datalinks communications system).