March 12, 2024

#BCEDigest – Republic of Korea military modernization

The Republic of Korea continues to advance its modernization strategy to effectively defend itself in alliance with the U.S. rather than be dependent on this alliance. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has launched an ambitious four-phase Manned-Unmanned Teaming (MUM-T) plan to integrate the KF-21 and FA-50 along with its fleet of Unmanned Systems and create an advanced AI-enabled and integrated capability.The first phase of the KAI/ROKAF initiative is the collaborative development of integrative technology to empower a seamless airborne ISR, attack, and defend capability. Phase I of MUM-T is expected to be mission ready by the end of next year, and will lead to the second phase culminating in a sophisticated multi-target demonstration of the F-50 testbed to both fly a mission and control multiple UAVs. Phases three and four are currently being planned but continue to increase both the complexity and capability of the fighter and UAV aircraft integration and combat power.  Recognizing the need to move forward faster, the ROK is looking for foreign investment and partnerships to increase MUM-T capabilities. South Korea continues its efforts to develop organic capabilities and become one of the region’s most capable militaries.

In another initiative related to ROKAF’s effort to take on more of its defense responsibility and structure it is upgrading its existing fleet of Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft. The ROKAF has budgeted more than $2.26B on four aircraft. They already have four Boeing E-7 (737) platforms, and the U.S.-company retains the inside track to get the follow-on contract for additional aircraft due to its ability to conduct airborne refueling and existing integration in the logistics and maintenance pipeline. However, ROKAF has opened the competition to bids, which will not only push the Boeing offering but allow other vendors an opportunity to build connection and relationships with the Koreans. Boeing will have to overcome some highly public issues, especially with its 737 fleet so while it may have some advantage it will still have to prove it is the right choice for the ROK.

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