Agence France Presse quotes naval consultancy AMI International, whose analysts are forecasting that Asian states will spend $60 billion to modernize their navies in the next 5 years. That amount is very similar to the USA’s forecast spend over the same period. If the USA is excluded from calculations, it’s more than the forecast combined spend among all NATO states.
So, where’s the focus expected to be? And who is expected to lead?
The Korean Times reports that South Korea is looking to improve its Coast Guard, which currently consists of 15 helicopters and just one patrol plane. To that end, a contract has been signed with Indonesia’s Dirgantara for 4 CN-235-100 aircraft, at a cost of about $92 million. The CN-235-110 uses GE’s CT7-9C engines, but lacks features like the pressurized cabins, aerodynamic improvements, and range extensions found on subsequent versions.
On June 20/08, the US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced [PDF] South Korea’s official request for a variety of weapons to equip its air force, in conjunction with the planned Direct Commercial Sale of 21 additional F-15K Strike Eagle fighters detailed in “Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buy, Phase 2: The Race is Over“. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $200 million.
The principal contractor is Raytheon in Tucson, AZ. South Korea should have no problem integrating these weapons, and there are currently 4 U.S. Air Force pilots and 5 maintenance Extended Training Service Specialists in the Republic of Korea. They are expected to remain for the next 5 years.
In March of 2008, Raytheon announced an initial contract (amount undisclosed) for preliminary planning efforts aimed at integrating Patriot air defense/ABM missiles into South Korea’s national command and control structure. This work is in preparation for a Foreign Military Sale of the Patriot air and missile defense system to South Korea under its $1.2-1.6 billion SAM-X program. Raytheon said that it expects significant follow-on awards to complete the system integration and to provide command and control, communications and maintenance support equipment, as well as the training of Korean operators and maintainers and technical assistance to the deployed systems.
In 2005, Republic of Korea (ROK, aka. South Korea) Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung said that he aimed to increase the defense budget from 2.8% of the total gross domestic product to 3.2% by 2008, a 12.5% increase in relative terms even before economic growth is factored in. In 2006, the government announced plans to cut troop levels from 680,000 to 500,000 by 2020, and funnel more money to modern weaponry. This related move is partly driven by weapons costs that rise much faster than inflation as each new generation is fielded, and partly by the realities of South Korea’s birth rate and future population pyramid.
The Chosun Ibo newspaper reports that Korea Aerospace Industries has finalized a contract to export 55 of its homegrown XKT-1 light trainers to Turkey by 2013. The deal is valued at $500 million, making it Korea’s largest ever aircraft order and the country’s second largest defense sale behind the $1 billion 2001 with Turkey for its K-9 mobile howitzer. Other sources including Yonhap, Middle East Times, et. al. confirm the news.
Back in 2002, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) selected the F-15K advanced derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle for its Next Generation Fighter Program. Under that $3.6 billion contract, Boeing will deliver 40 aircraft to the ROKAF beginning this year and ending in August 2008. South Korea’s 2-seat F-15K Strike Eagles will be the first F-15s produced with the GE F110 engine common on many US F-16C/D aircraft, and will also carry the SLAM-ER missile as their medium-range precision strike weapon. They will not be equipped with the AESA radars found on some US F-15Cs and Singapore’s forthcoming F-15SGs, however, relying instead on the standard AN/APG-63(v1) radars that equip most Strike Eagles in service around the world. See this RealVideo clip of the first F-15K in flight.
In May 2006, the Korean Overseas Information Service said that the ROKAF would purchase another 20 F-15K multi-role aircraft beginning in 2009 – but that report has since been qualified, and a subsequent report says that South Korea may be examining the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter instead.
On Sept 6, 2006, the US DSCA(Defense Security Cooperation Agency) announced South Korea’s request for continuing support of their RC-800 Tactical Reconnaissance Aircraft, as well as the accompanying Reconnaissance Ground Stations that process and analyze the data gathered. Work will include contractor services, maintenance, spare and repair parts, support and test equipment, communication support, prime mission equipment (PME), technical support, contractor engineering, and other related elements of program support. The total value, if all options are exercised, could be as high as $200 million.
South Korea appears to be leaning toward some clear choices for its Korean Helicopter Program (KHP) utility helicopter competition, and its E-X airborne early warning (AEW) aircraft acquisition program. The projects have a combined budget of 7 trillion Won (about $7 billion).
A deal with Eurocopter has now been confirmed for 245 helicopters, and an Israeli-American consortium based on the General Dynamics Gulfstream G550 is believed to be the front runner in the E-X competiton – if technology transfer approval from the US government doesn’t delay South Korea’s E-X program again.
Defense Minister Yoon Kwang-ung recently reaffirmed his commitment to reform South Korea’s Army-dominated military to achieve a better balance between the Army, Navy and Air Force. South Korea has 690,000 troops, the sixth largest military in the world, including 550,000 Army troops who account for 81% of the nation’s military. The Navy has 67,000 troops and the Air Force, 64,000, according to the 2004 Defense White Paper published last March.
Yoon said the ministry will implement its three-point reform measures by 2020, including streamlining the Army and reorganizing military setups. Based on public consensus, the ministry will push for military reform on a coherent basis by legalizing reform methods, modeled after France’s military reform program