Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been awarded a KRW800 billion (USD675 million) contract to develop and manufacture four intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft systems for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) under the second phase of the Baekdu project. The company had previously announced in early November that the new Baekdu ISR aircraft will be based on the Dassault Falcon 2000LXS business jet and that mission systems will be developed in co-operation with LiG Nex1. The contract is due to be completed by the end of 2026 and will develop the new ISR system that will replace the four Hawker 800SIG Peace Pioneer reconnaissance aircraft that first entered service with the RoKAF in 2001.
The Baekdu aircraft, a key surveillance force of the Air Force, is named “Baekdu” as its coverage reaches Mt. Baekdu in North Korea. Currently, the Korean military operates six Baekdu surveillance aircraft. Compared to Global Hawk, a U.S. developed high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, Baekdu has advanced signal-collecting capabilities, and it can detect both electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT). After the older Baekdu units are replaced with the four newly configured Baekdu aircraft produced through the second project, all Baekdu aircraft will be equipped with the technology to capture foreign instrumentation signature intelligence (FISINT) and detect flames when missiles are launched.
The ROKAF currently operates Raytheon Hawker 800XP aircraft-based Baekdu SIGINT planes bought in 2000. Modified Dassault Falcon 2000S was selected as ROKAF’s next-gen Baekdu generation intelligence surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) aircraft. Seoul has selected the Dassault Falcon 2000S as its next. DAPA was unable to provide details of exactly how the aircraft will be equipped for the South Korean ISR mission but said the aircraft would be used mainly to monitor North Korea. DAPA was also unable to confirm the contractor for the ISR package. The Dassault Falcon 2000 is a French business jet and a member of Dassault Aviation’s Falcon business jet line, and is a twin-engine, slightly smaller development of the Falcon 900 trijet, with transcontinental range.
KAI said that it will be the integrator for the mission avionics, specifically the intelligence-gathering equipment and transmission/reception systems, and lead the development of ground systems as well as the integrated system support elements. The RoKAF already operates two modified Falcon 2000S in signals intelligence (SIGINT) roles, which were procured under the first Baekdu project between 2011 and 2018. The Falcon 2000S Baekdu aircraft features mission systems from LIG Nex1 and Hanwha Systems, which were integrated by L3Harris Technologies in the United States. KAI had previously signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Dassault in October for aircraft support and technical cooperation to speed up preparations for the Baekdu-II project.