Pardon me while I dust off a bit of holiday haze. The spouse and I share birthdays that extend beyond the New Year, assuring little cognizance from near Christmas until now. I’m playing a bit of catch-up.
Consider this a preview of the South Korean Unmanned Ariel Vehicle (UAV) article I’ve been wanting to post since about October.
Bare with me as I clear my eyes and bring things up to date after a holiday lull, but let’s get back into it:
While South Korea has been pushing forward in recent months with development of Umanned Ariel Vehicles, including recent developements in potentially the world’s fastest UAV, the South Korean military still craves foreign models for both current surveillance needs and as a template for future models.
The majority of ROK military progression relies upon three phases from the purchasing foreign models, the procuring of rights to foreign model production, and final production of indigenous designs (usually based on foreign designs, but patent holders often look the other way if those designs point at mutual enemies).
On December 26th, the South Korean government hit a snag in their talks to procure Global Hawk UAVs from Northrop Grumman:
SEOUL, Dec. 26 (Yonhap) — South Korea’s plan to purchase Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance planes has been put off by one year as the U.S. government has not agreed to the sale yet, a government source said Monday.
With the planned purchase of the Global Hawks hitting a snag, South Korea plans to invite two more models of U.S.-made spy drones — the Global Observer made by AeroVironment and Boeing’s Phantom Eye — to bid for the project, the source said.
Last year, Seoul asked Washington to sell it the U.S.-made RQ-4 Global Hawk spy planes by 2015 and expected to receive final approval for the planned purchase from the U.S. Defense Department by June of this year.
“The U.S. has yet to send a letter of agreement to sell the Global Hawk high-altitude surveillance planes to us,” the source at the South Korean government said, on condition of anonymity. “That prompted us to postpone the project of acquiring the high-altitude surveillance aircraft to 2016.”
The source didn’t say why the U.S. government, which has jurisdiction over the sale of the advanced spy drones built by American defense contractor Northrop Grumman, has failed to give approval. He indicated, however, that a price increase may be among the potential reasons.
The price of each Global Hawk jumped to 940 billion won (US$813.9 million) from an initially estimated tag of some 400 billion won, according to the source.
South Korea’s military has been under pressure to beef up its surveillance capabilities following North Korea’s two deadly military attacks on the South last year. (Source: Yonhap News)
While the price of the Global Hawk remains beyond that of the South Korean government’s intentions, that the price may come down if the model is truly in the ROK’s sights.
The death of Kim Jong Il is a boon to South Korea’s need for surveillance, and with the US military’s assets spread out across the globe, offering a discount on UAVs to South Korea would be an asset to American intelligence efforts.
The ROK government will likely feign interest in other UAVs before being offered a better deal, in exchange for preferential intelligence data. From there, the ROK is likely to study their UAV acquisitions and adapt and meld their technological designs with that of their foreign counterparts, as has been the standard modus operandi of ROK military progression.
While the ROK has wowed the international community with recent UAV projects in terms of speed and futuristic designs, their models still fall behind their surveillance/stealth needs and the ROK remains in dire need of foreign models to fill their intelligence gaps.
One would imagine that if the ROK government truly desires the Global Hawk that a breakthrough will come through in the next few months to allow that deal to flow more smoothly.
Regardless, the realm of ROK Unmanned Vehicles, based on land, in the sea, and in air, is set to explode in the next few years and worthy of serious attention.
This author would not be surprised if (baring the complete annihilation of South Korea) South Korean drones were rivaling that of US/Israel/etc in the coming decade due to the ROK’s immense technological capabilities and their constant surveillance paranoia of their brother to the north.
Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch