U.S. aerospace giant Boeing has been named the winner of a deal to equip the Korean Air Force with four airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft in stages by 2012, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on Wednesday (Nov. 8).
The decision was made at a meeting of the agency's supreme committee, chaired by Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung, in Seoul, DAPA officials said. The agency and Boeing agreed on a price of about $1.6 billion for the deal, codenamed “E-X,” they said.
The purchase of the surveillance airplanes is a core part in the government's stated aim of achieving a “self-reliant” defense posture. Korea has no air surveillance system of its own and relies on U.S. reconnaissance aircraft based in Okinawa, Japan.
The aircraft is capable of detecting and identifying airborne objects, determining their co-ordinates and flight path data, and transferring the information to a command post. It can also play the role of a control center in guiding fighter-interceptors and tactical air force aircraft to combat areas to attack ground targets at low altitudes.
Boeing's B-737 AEW&C, equipped with Northrop Grumman's L-band Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar on the rear fuselage, is able to detect targets 480 kilometers away.
It has six common console stations for the mission crew and boasts of its commonality with commercial airline fleets for flexibility and support. The airplane can fly at a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet and maximum speed of 340 knots.
The E-X project was initiated in February 2004 with the aim of improving the nation's independent surveillance capabilities.