Korean Air’s Aerospace Division announces its plans to bid as a main contractor for Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA)’s second Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft development project. The first Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft development project entailed building new Baekdu surveillance aircraft with enhanced features to replace some of the existing Baekdu fleet, which was introduced by the Korean military in the 1990s. The Baekdu aircraft, a key surveillance force of the Air Force, is named “Baekdu” as its coverage reaches Mt. Baekdu in North Korea.
Approximately KRW 400 billion won (US$352 million) was invested in the first Baekdu development project, a seven-year project carried out from 2011 to 2018. A total of two new Baekdu reconnaissance units were created based on the French business jet, Dassault Falcon 2000S. The new Baekdu aircraft were equipped with intelligence collecting equipment and a transmission system developed by local manufacturers, LIG Nex1 and Hanwha Systems. During the first project, Korean Air carried out key tasks, such as aircraft modification, integrated logistics support, airworthiness certification and test flights. Using the technology and expertise acquired through creating the first new Baekdu aircraft with L-3 PID, a US defence company, Korean Air succeeded in building the second aircraft by itself.
Following the success of the first project, the Korean military decided to launch a second project to replace the four older Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft with newly configured Baekdu aircraft. The second project is planned to run from 2022 to 2026 with a total project cost of about KRW 870 billion.
A Korean Air representative said, “We have accumulated a significant amount of know-how through our participation in the first project that will help us to successfully carry out the second project. We have already signed an aircraft purchase agreement with Dassault Aviation to speed up preparations for the project.”
Currently, the Korean military operates six Baekdu surveillance aircraft. Compared to Global Hawk, a US developed high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle, Baekdu has advanced signal-collecting capabilities, and it can detect both electronic intelligence (ELINT) and communications intelligence (COMINT). After the older Baekdu units are replaced with the four newly configured Baekdu aircraft produced through the second project, all Baekdu aircraft will be equipped with the technology to capture foreign instrumentation signature intelligence (FISINT) and detect flames when missiles are launched. Korean Air, as the top Korean aerospace company, will continue to work closely with DAPA, and contribute to bolstering national defence capabilities through participating in various military strengthening projects.