Raytheon and Korean Air’s Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) announced a partnership on October 15, 2019 to pursue the Republic of Korea’s Air Force’s (RoKAF) Intelligence Surveillance Target Acquisition and Reconnaissance (ISTAR) program, marketed as ISTAR-K. Under a tripartite collaboration with Bombardier, KAL will modify a Global 6500 business jet into a SIGINT/ISR platform, similar in some respects to the Royal Air Force’s Sentinel R1 and UAE’s Project Dolphin. Under the exclusive collaboration agreement, Raytheon will be the prime contractor and provide multiple-intelligence, or Multi-INT, technologies for the aircraft, while KAL will deliver design, logistics, and life-cycle support services.
Based on Raytheon’s proposal, there will be four aircraft in the package, as well as both fixed and mobile ground-based stations. The cabin will have stations for eight crew, including two battlefield command and control operators and four intelligence operators. KAL currently holds maintenance certificates for the Global 6500 and modified the Falcon 2000 into a SIGINT platform for the RoKAF. The main modification for the Korean Global program is the integration of ground moving target indicator radar, synthetic aperture radar (SAR), and electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) capabilities. It will feature ELINT and COMINT capabilities and have both line-of-sight (LOS) and beyond-LOS communications.
Raytheon is still evaluating OEMs for the radar systems, a process scheduled to complete in one to two years. Both Raytheon and KAL are awaiting an RFP from the Korean government, expected sometime in late 2021. Currently, the RoKAF’s ISR capabilities are provided by 125 Tactical Reconnaissance Squadron, flying the Hawker BAe125-800SIG, BAe125-800RA, and Falcon 2000S SIGINT, all based at Seongnam airbase south of Seoul. Meanwhile, KAL-ASD has completed the development of the Medium Altitude Long Endurance (MALE) UAV for the RoKAF and is hopeful of a contract signing with the government in 2020, leading to serial production in 2021.
ISTAR allows operators and commanders to track the convoy’s signals, listen to its communications and watch its movements with active electronically scanned array radars, multi-spectral imagers and other advanced tech. Because the plane is equipped with multiple-intelligence, or Multi-INT, technology, what was hidden is revealed. With a Multi-INT platform, synthetic aperture radar/ground moving target indicator, or SAR/GMTI, data combines with electro-optical infrared data, signal and electronics intelligence and other data. All of those technologies work together on the company’s ISTAR special mission aircraft to create a multi-dimensional view, giving commanders and operators the information they need to make the right decisions in real-time.