Amid Covid-19 disruptions, South Korea modernises its forces while encouraging the local defense industry

1 July 2020 (Last Updated July 1st, 2020 16:46)

South Korea recently approved purchases worth US$21.27bn last week, the approval for the purchase of these systems shows not only the increased dependence on surveillance in modern warfare, but also the need to invest in systems to ensure proper training for the effective use of a military.

Amid Covid-19 disruptions, South Korea modernises its forces while encouraging the local defense industry

South Korea recently approved purchases worth US$21.27bn last week, the approval for the purchase of these systems shows not only the increased dependence on surveillance in modern warfare, but also the need to invest in systems to ensure proper training for the effective use of a military.

The projects planned to conclude by 2027 will add up to US$21.27bn with around KRW1 trillion (US$833m) for the trainers between 2019-2024, KRW15,900bn (US$13.2bn) for the airborne early warning and control aircraft (AEW&C) from abroad between 2021 -2027 and KRW8,700bn (US$7.24bn) for purchase of the Baekdu reconnaissance aircraft from 2021-2026.

This week, the country moved to announce that Hanwha systems would provide 30mm Anti-Aircraft Gun Wheeled Vehicle Systems (AAGW) worth KRW250bn (US$208Mn) for deliveries to start in 2021. This project has been in the works for around 5 years and has a localization rate of around 95%. So, apart from acting as the means for South Korea to modernize their anti-aircraft defenses from the present Vulcan system, this step is expected to boost the local economy and bring in jobs.

Even though Korea has reduced its defense budget for this year to deal with the after effects of COVID-19, the country has been approving projects with the vision of its long- term strategic interests in mind. This was seen with the country moving forward with the KDDX project announced on the 29 May 2020.

In the KDDX project, we saw the country pushing for local industry to drive the development of the program. Here too, we see that same push with the development of the TA-50 trainers, and the work for the Baekdu aircraft. The addition of the AEW&C systems does not take away from the belief that local development is hindered, this purchase can be expected to have further support from local industry for the life of the platform with further developments in avionics being developed locally.

With the TA-50 and AAGW projects, we can expect three benefits in particular. First, these orders provide for an immediate need, the government is expecting that this move now helps to ease the situation by encouraging companies to hire now and improve the availability of assured jobs in the market and hopes that the benefits are also seen by the whole supply chain for these programs. Then, the government hopes that these should encourage the larger industry in the confidence of the state in local capability, although that wasn’t under question, off late, there was concentration on development. Third, the confidence in these platforms by the government and its extended use can act as examples that companies can use to market their products for export, something that the government would encourage as well.