Hanwha AESA radar (photo : themess)
South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha Thales plans to kick off the process to develop an advanced radar system to be fitted onto the country's indigenous fighter jets next month, the company's CEO said Thursday.
In April, the defense unit of conglomerate Hanwha Group was picked as the preferred bidder to build active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for some 120 fighter jets that South Korea seeks to develop by the mid-2020s.
Chang Si-kwon, chief executive of Hanwha Thales, told reporters in Paris that his company plans to produce a model of the AESA and that this will be used in operational tests with the Agency for Defense Development (ADD).
Hanwha Thales, set to clinch the final contract with ADD, plans to produce the first prototype of the radar by June 2017 and another one by the following year if the radar works as planned.
"The parent group is fully supporting us in our efforts to become a world-class defense manufacturer," Chang said. "The group is stressing that we must succeed in developing the AESA radars."
South Korea is seeking to deploy the new planes to be built under the 18 trillion won ($15.4 billion) Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) project in a bid to replace its aging jet fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
Last month, U.S. company General Electric (GE) was selected as the preferred bidder to supply engines for South Korea's next-generation fighter jets.
South Korea had initially planned to secure 25 fighter jet technologies from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin in an offset deal linked to Seoul's purchase of 40 of the company's F-35 Lightning II fighters in 2014.
But the U.S. government refused last year to approve the export of four core technologies, including those related to the radar, forcing Seoul to find an alternative supplier.