The South Korean Defense Project Promotion Committee approved major projects Wednesday to upgrade combat capabilities of its F-15K fighters and import aerial refueling tankers, in a move to counter evolving North Korean threats. The committee passed a 3.46 trillion won (US$2.73 billion) project to strengthen the mission capabilities and survivability of the F-15K jets from 2024-2034. The project includes replacing the current F-15Ks’ old radar system with the advanced Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and installing integrated electronic warfare equipment and an up-to-date mission computer.
It is not known if the upgrade of Republic of Korea Air Force F-15Ks will be similar to the Japan Air Self-Defense Force Mitsubishi F-15J “Japanese Super Interceptor” (JSI) configuration. The JSI uses the APG-82(v)1 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radars, Advanced Display Core Processor II Mission System Computers and AN/ALQ-250 Eagle Passive Active Warning Survivability System (EPAWSS). The APG-82(v)1 AESA radar is currently being installed in the F-15E under the Radar Modernization Program (RMP). In 2009, the proposed APG-63(V)4 radar was designated APG-82(V)1. From 2017, Israel also selected the APG-82(V)1 to install in its F-15Is.
The F-15K Slam Eagle is a derivative of the F-15E, operated by the Republic of Korea Air Force. Several major components were outsourced to South Korean companies under an offset agreement, wherein South Korea was responsible for 40% of production and 25% of assembly. The fuselage and wings are supplied by Korea Aerospace Industries, flight control actuator by Hanwha Corporation, electronic jammer and radar warning receiver by Samsung Thales, head-up display, airborne communication system, and radar by LIG Nex1, and engines by Samsung Techwin under license before final assembly at Boeing’s St. Louis facility.
The committee also gave the green light to a 1.2 trillion won project to purchase foreign-made refueling tankers from 2024-2029. The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) did not disclose how many tankers will be imported, but it is expected to buy two tankers. Potential candidates for the project could include Boeing’s KC-46 and Airbus A-330 MRTT. South Korea currently operates four Airbus A-330 MRTTs which it designate as KC-330 Cygnus. it extends the endurance of ROKAF aircraft over remote areas such as Dokdo, Ieodo, and the North Pyongyang-Wonsan Line, as well as increase its ability to deploy overseas for international operations.