Bruce S. Lemkin
Deputy Undersecretary of
U.S. Air Force
By Jung Sung-ki
A top U.S. procurement official raised the needs of South Korea's procurement of intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) weapons systems to ensure stability on the Korean Peninsula, Tuesday.
In an interview with The Korea Times at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province, where an international aerospace and defense exhibition opened, Bruce S. Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force, stressed that the Korean Air Force would see an increase in its air power capability by introducing advanced ISR systems, such as the Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) and the stealthy F-35 Lightening II fighter jet equipped with network-centric digital command-control systems.
Lemkin is a key official dealing with the foreign military sales (FMS) government-to-government arms trade programs in the Pentagon. He was involved in Seoul's purchase of 60 F-15K fighters in the previous two phases of the F-X program.
"Global Hawk offers very valuable and significant capability," he said, adding his government is continuing to discuss the sales of the UAV to South Korea and other allied nations.
Seoul had sought to buy four Global Hawks by 2011 as part of efforts to build independent ISR capabilities for its takeover of wartime operational control from the United States in 2012. But the timeline was delayed due to budget constraints and the restriction on overseas sales of the aircraft under the Missile Technology Control Regime (MTCR).
The MTCR is a voluntary association of countries which share the goal of non-proliferation of ballistic missiles and other delivery systems that could be used for chemical, biological and nuclear attacks.
The Global Hawk can survey vast areas with near pinpoint accuracy from as high as 65,000 feet for up to 35 straight hours. The price per unit is $45-$60 million.
Lemkin said the South Korean Air Force's soon-to-be-deployed airborne early warning aircraft would be able to enhance its air operational capability with the Global Hawk spy planes.
He also hope South Korea will consider buying the F-35 aircraft in the next phase F-X deal to help modernize the country's fighter fleet.
The F-X aims to buy 120 high-end fighter jets by 2020. Boeing won the previous two deals in 2002 and 2008 to provide a total of 41 F-15Ks.
The third phase program is expected to begin by 2011. The Lockheed Martin-built F-35 is referred to as a viable candidate, competing with Boeing's semi-stealth F-15 Silent Eagle.
The so-called fifth-generation F-35, fitted with radar-evading stealth technology, is a single-seat, single-engine multi-role fighter jet that can perform close air support, tactical bombing and air defense missions.