9 Februari 2010
Boeing 737 AEW&C (photo : AlastairBor)
SEOUL - Boeing Integrated Defense System (IDS) has delivered the first of four planned 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft to South Korea for modifications ahead of a final handover to the Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force next year, procurement and industry officials said Feb. 8.
Under a $1.6 billion contract signed in November 2006, Boeing IDS is to deliver four 737 AEW&C "Peace Eye" aircraft to South Korea by 2012.
The first 737 plane flew from a Boeing facility in Seattle to a Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) facility in Sacheon, some 430 kilometers southeast of Seoul, on Feb. 4, officials from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and KAI said.
KAI will equip the 737 airplane with Northrop Grumman's L-band Multi-Role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar. The modification work is part of offset deals from the AEW&C contract.
A ceremony to mark the beginning of the modification work here is to be held at the Sacheon facility Feb. 9 with representatives DAPA, KAI and Boeing in attendance.
"After integrating the Northrop Grumman's MESA radar into the plane and several test flights, the early warning aircraft will be delivered to the ROK Air Force next year," a DAPA official said.
The 737 AEW&C aircraft is a core part in South Korea's pursuit of achieving independent intelligent gathering, surveillance and reconnaissance capability to prepare for the transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. to South Korea in 2012, as the nation heavily relies on U.S. reconnaissance aircraft based in Okinawa, Japan.
In case of an emergency, the Peace Eye aircraft will orchestrate air assets flown by ROK airmen by detecting and identifying airborne objects, determining their coordinates and flight path data, and transferring the information to commanders.
The planes will play the role of an aerial command-and-control center in guiding fighter-interceptors and tactical air force aircraft to combat areas to attack ground targets at low altitudes.
The 737 AEW&C has six common console stations for the mission crew and boasts of its commonality with commercial airline fleets for flexibility and support. The aircraft can fly at a maximum altitude of 41,000 feet and top speed of 340 knots.
The ROK Air Force plans to create a tactical reconnaissance wing led by the 737 AEW&C aircraft by 2012. The wing will have unmanned aerial vehicles, RF-4C surveillance planes, Hawker 800 aircraft and others, according to ROK Air Force officials.