South Korea to develop electronic warfare aircraft, buy spec ops helicopters

South Korea’s Defense Project Promotion Committee has approved the development of an electronic warfare aircraft and the purchase of new special forces helicopters, according to a statement released on April 13, 2023. 

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) stated that the committee has approved a 1.85 trillion KRW ($1.41 billion) plan to develop an electronic warfare aircraft. The program is expected to run from 2024 to 2032 and serve as “the foundation for a future electronic warfare response system”. 

The role of the aircraft will be to “disrupt the enemy’s integrated air defense network and wireless command communication system to improve the survivability and joint operation capability of our air power,” as well as to “collect and analyze threat signals from neighboring countries and build a database,” DAPA explained. 

The committee also approved the acquisition of an undisclosed number of new heavy-lift special operations helicopters from a foreign manufacturer. The acquisition is valued at KRW 3.7 trillion ($2.84 billion) and should come to pass between 2024 and 2031.  

Though the models being considered were not specified, the choice will likely be between the Boeing CH-47F Chinook and the Sikorsky CH-53K King Stallion, a defense source told the Yonhap news agency. 

Back in July 2022, the committee approved a 1.4 trillion KRW ($1.54 billion) project to purchase an unspecified number of CH-47F heavy transport helicopters. The new helicopters will replace South Korea’s current fleet of older Boeing CH-47D Chinooks. 

DAPA and Boeing to collaborate on research and development of advanced weapons systems 

On April 13, 2023, DAPA also announced having signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) for joint research and development between the agency and Boeing, intended to target the “global high-tech weapons market”. 

“Boeing has been committed to building and developing partnerships with the Korean government and businesses for the past 70 years,” said Boeing Defense CEO Ted Colbert. He added: “It is in line with the common interest of Boeing and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration to build a partnership.” 

A joint committee will be formed between Boeing and the agency, to identify projects where the two partners will be “jointly researching and developing advanced weapon systems that will lead the future battlefield”. 

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