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The fourth ordered US long-range reconnaissance RQ-4 UAV landed in South Korea

SEOUL, (BM) – The last of the four RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk long-range reconnaissance drones ordered in 2014 has arrived in South Korea, learned BulgarianMilitrary.com citing Defence24. The purchase of machines of this type by Seoul was dictated by the desire to increase the ability to carry out intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) tasks in the area of ​​the Korean Peninsula. The machines are stationed at Sacheon Air Base in South Gyeongsang Province.

Read more: Seoul deployed F-35 fighters and UAVs along its border with North Korea

As the authorities in Seoul are trying not to publicize the deliveries of reconnaissance drones so that they do not spark another crisis with the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (North Korea), the information about the arrival of the RQ-4 Global Hawk to Sacheon was significantly delayed. On October 19, US Ambassador to South Korea Harry Harris posted congratulations on the delivery of the last machine in September 2020 on his social account.

The first Global Hawk was delivered to Korea in December last year, i.e. with a delay of over a year. Two machines were originally planned to be delivered in 2018 and two in the following year. The delay was due to the introduction of changes increasing the system’s resistance to cyber attacks.

The value of the Korean contract is estimated at USD 657.4 million, but in 2019 the possibility of delivering a logistics package with a maximum value of up to USD 950 million was approved under the FMS program. Of course, this does not mean such high maintenance costs, as it is worth recalling that the consent to sell 4 RQ-4 Global Hawk machines with training and infrastructure was worth up to $ 1.2 billion.

HALE [high altitude – long endurance – ed.] RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk unmanned aerial systems, manufactured by the American arms concern Northrop Grumman, have been replacing the older Block 10 models since mid-2011. They can perform spy and reconnaissance flights on high altitude, providing real-time key data from a multispectral system of active and passive sensors.

The entry of Global Hawk drones into the Korean arsenal was positively received by American politicians and military. The latter pay attention primarily to the possibility of extensive cooperation between the South Korean RQ-4 fleet and American manned and unmanned machines. It is also important to increase Seoul’s autonomy in terms of identifying both North Korean and Chinese activities in the region.

The RQ-4 Block 30 Global Hawk has a wingspan of 39.9 m, the machine is 14.5 m long and 4.7 m high. 32 hours.

South Korea plans to design and manufacture UAVs and unmanned systems

The Ministry of Defense of the Republic of Korea plans to purchase over a dozen different models of military equipment in the coming months. Among them, there are various types of UAV and land unmanned systems to be designed and manufactured by the domestic industry as we reported on October 21.

Read more: 5th-gen KF-X fighter should be ready in 2021, Seoul showed the assembly of the jet

According to the local media [including the Korea Herald], these actions are aimed at better preparing the South Korean armed forces for the dynamically changing conditions of the present and future battlefield, in which unmanned systems play an increasingly important role.

The South Korean defense procurement agency DAPA [Defense Acquisition Program Administration] has announced that it plans to release, as part of the project started in May this year the so-called rapid adoption, by 2021, approximately USD 22.75 million for 12 new weapon systems using the latest technologies, including unmanned and autonomous systems.

These include circulating ammunition systems, reconnaissance and combat unmanned aerial vehicles, armed and universal unmanned land platforms, intelligent anti-jamming systems and the new battlefield management system [BMS]. Proceedings for their acquisition have already started and in the coming months it is planned to select specific solutions and suppliers who will deliver these systems to the South Korean army in the middle of next year. In the first stage of the program, DAPA was to purchase the first four advanced weapon systems. Among them, there are two models of unmanned aerial vehicles, small unmanned reconnaissance aircraft and portable anti-drone systems.

According to the head of DAPA, Wang Jung-hong, his agency plans in the near future to continue work on improving the existing procedures for acquiring weapons and equipment for the domestic armed forces in order to further reduce bureaucracy and increase efficiency. Such a fast pace of programs and planned deliveries is caused by the necessity defined by the military to quickly implement the latest technologies in the line service in order to maintain the current and further development of the combat potential.

South Korea decided to create drones that could replace soldiers in battle

As we reported in September this year South Korea has embarked on an ambitious UAV development program capable of performing a wide variety of tasks. Some of them can be equipped with small arms.

The plans of the Republic of Korea to develop unmanned aerial vehicles with reference to the Defense Procurement Agency (DAPA) were reported to TASS. Over the next ten years, the country will invest $ 2.3 billion in the creation of various military UAVs. “It is planned to create several types of drones to perform various tasks – from reconnaissance to combat,” said in a statement.

Read more: Top 5 best combat drones [UAVs] in the world

Some of the combat drones can be armed with assault rifles, machine guns and grenade launchers, which in theory will partially replace real soldiers on the battlefield. Technologies that will make it possible to implement the above plans may appear by 2022: in the coming years, they intend to work within the framework of the direct creation of a weapon platform.

South Korea has actively developed this area before. Last year, the Night Intruder 600 VT unmanned helicopter, based on a two-seater rotorcraft, made its first flight. As part of tests, the prototype showed that it is capable of hovering in the air and performing horizontal flight. In the future, the Ministry of Defense of South Korea wants to use the Night Intruder 600 VT in its own interests: for this, it is possible to install various payloads, in particular, an electro-optical complex and a laser rangefinder.

De facto, drones have already partially replaced humans on the battlefield: at least when it comes to pilots. Back in 2014, the US Armed Forces used about ten thousand small UAVs, as well as about a thousand medium and heavy drones. Among them, in particular, were MQ-9 Reaper vehicles, capable of carrying up to four AGM-114 Hellfire missiles on external holders, as well as various bombs.

Despite the extensive capabilities of the Reaper, the United States is already thinking about replacing it. Northrop Grumman Corporation recently unveiled the SG-2 attack unmanned aerial vehicle concept, which is being considered a successor to the MQ-9. A promising UAV will use technical solutions previously tested on the X-47B. The United States had previously curtailed the latter’s program. One of the reasons is that the price is too high.

As for Russia, it has yet to reach the technological level of the West. One of the country’s main hopes is associated with the promising S-70 Okhotnik UAV, which made its maiden flight in August 2019.

Read more: Korea showed a radar capable of tracking more than 1000 targets simultaneously

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