Korea gets 1st early warning aircraft
By Lee Tae-hoon
Korea’s first early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, to be deployed next month, arrived at an Air Force base Monday, an official of the country’s defense procurement agency said.
“The first one arrived at Gimhae Air Base today from Boeing’s factory in Seattle and it will be deployed for use by the Air Force in early September after undergoing final flight tests and acceptance inspections,” Lt. Col. Lee Ki-wook of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.
The E-737, nicknamed “Peace Eye,” is capable of 360-degree detection and tracking airborne and maritime targets within a 370-kilometer radius.
“It is capable of locating airborne or seaborne targets on the entire Korean Peninsula, including ones flying at low altitude infiltrating mountainous areas,” he said.
Lee noted that if Peace Eye is flying near the border area, it will be able to detect enemy airplane infiltrations in both the East Sea and West Sea, given that the peninsula is only approximately 250 kilometers wide.
He said that the remaining three planes, priced at $400 million each, will be subsequently delivered at five-month intervals with the last one expected to go through final tests here in late 2012.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been modifying the remaining 737 AEW&Cs at its facility in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, with Northrop Grumman’s L-band Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar.
The MESA radar can simultaneously track up to 1,000 airborne targets, allowing nearly the entire peninsula to come under its surveillance range.
The Peace Eye can fly at a maximum operating altitude of 41,000 feet and carry out surveillance missions for eight hours regardless of weather conditions without refueling.
It is expected to significantly improve the nation’s defense capabilities against North Korea’s AN-2 planes, propeller-driven biplanes capable of carrying 10 to 15 heavily armed soldiers.
Pyongyang is believed to possess some 300 AN-2s, which give off virtually no radar signature.
Seoul concluded the deal to purchase the four E-737s from Boeing in 2006 as part of ongoing measures to improve its own sea and air defense capabilities prior to retaking wartime operational control of its military from the United States in 2015.
Australia has also purchased six of the advanced surveillance planes and Turkey bought four.