New Signals Intelligence Platforms for Republic of Korea Air Force

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) could spend up to $725 million on new SIGINT aircraft between now and 2026.

Plans were approved by Republic of Korea’s Defence Project Promotion Committee (DPPC) on 26th June to acquire new Signals Intelligence (SIGINT) platforms for the ROKAF with a budget of $725 million.

The ROKAF uses two Dassault Falcon-2000S and four BAE Systems Hawker RC-800 SIGINT gathering aircraft. The Falcon-2000S jets were delivered in 2017. The RC-800 aircraft are slightly older, entering service in the early 2000s. DPPC plans call for four of the RC-800s to be replaced with the new SIGINT acquisition.


Both the Falcon-2000S and RC-800s are believed to gather Communications Intelligence (COMINT) and Electronic Intelligence (ELINT) at the operational, and possibly strategic, levels. To this end, they are thought to collect COMINT/ELINT across 500 megahertz to 40 gigahertz wavebands. This intelligence maybe analysed onboard by electronic warfare specialists and/or transmitted across air-to-ground datalinks.

It is reasonable to assume that the ROKAF may choose to procure at least four new aircraft to replace the same number of RC-800s. The force could spend up to $175 million on each aircraft with a residual $25 million covering training and other ancillary costs. Local reports state that the first new SIGINT aircraft could enter service in 2026.

The Republic of Korea Air Force is looking for new signals intelligence aircraft to replace its existing RC-800 jets. (L3Harris)

South Korea – New Radars On Horizon

LIG Nex-1's Long Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (ChainHomeHigh)
LIG Nex-1’s Long Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (ChainHomeHigh)

South Korea will commence the induction of its new LIG Nex-1 Long Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (LRADSR) into air force service from 2015, according to company sources speaking to ChainHomeHigh at the Seoul Aerospace and Defence Exhibition held in the South Korean capital between 29th October and 3rd November.

The LRADSR is an L-band (1.215-1.4 gigahertz) system which has a range of circa 200 nautical miles (370 kilometres) and a ceiling of 100,000 feet (30,480 metres). This three-dimensional radar uses an Active Electronically Scanned Array antenna. The LRADSR is being procured to eventually replace the Lockheed Martin AN/FPS-117 L-band air surveillance radars which the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) currently uses. In terms of performance, the LRADSR has similar capabilities to the AN/FPS-117.

LIG Nex-1's Medium Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (ChainHomeHigh)
LIG Nex-1’s Medium Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (ChainHomeHigh)

Over the longer term, the ROKAF plans to induct LIGNex-1’s Medium Range Air Defence Surveillance Radar (MRADSR) into service which will have a shorter range of around 76nm (140km), and a 40,000ft (12,192m) ceiling. The MRADSR is an S-band (2.3-2.5/2.7-3.7ghz) radar. There is no word on when this radar may enter service nor on how many of the MRADSR and LRADSR the ROKAF may procure. As well as manufacturing the radar, LIG Nex-1 built the Identification Friend or Foe (IFF) interrogators for both systems.

These radars will join the Israel Aerospace Industries Elta Systems two EL/M-2080 Green Pine ballistic missile defence radars which have been undergoing testing in South Korea. The EL/M-2080 has a range of circa 270nm (500km), according to open source reports.

Philippines – New Radar Plans

The Philippines is continuing its upgrade and enhancement of radar air surveillance coverage across the archipelago.

On 20th September it was reported that the radar capabilities in the north of Luzon, the largest island in the Philippines would be increased. The investment into radar is intended to enhance the coverage of the West Philippine Sea, along with the wider Pacific area.

There is no word yet on what the radar acquisition will consist of in terms of radar type, number to be acquired, budget and programme timelines. However, as reported in the January 2013 edition of ChainHomeHigh, the Philippines Air Force (PAF) has announced plans to acquire three ground-based air surveillance radars.

This news follows an announcement in March 2012 that the PAF would perform a wide-ranging modernisation to include the acquisition of six combat aircraft, twelve trainers, long-range maritime patrol aircraft and a single air defence radar.

The announcement regarding the new radar (made in December 2012) now seems to indicate that the quantity of air defence radars to be purchased has been increased to three.

Little is known regarding the ground surveillance radars which the PAF currently operate, although it is thought that the force has at its disposal possibly around 20 ITT Gilfillan (now ITT Exelis) AN/TPS-32 long-range surveillance systems. Only a single system based at Wallace Air Station, a former United States Air Force facility located on Luzon Island in the northern Philippines is thought to be continually at work. This radar is believed to provide surveillance of the northern approaches to the archipelago. The AN/TPS-32 has a range of 556km (300 nautical miles) and a 100,000 feet (30,500 metre) ceiling.

Based on the performance of the AN/TPS-32 it is possible that the PAF is seeking a long-range, high-altitude radar which can be integrated into the overall Philippine Air Defence Identification Zone which is commanded by the PAF Air Defence Alert Centre, controlled by the Air Defence Wing based in PampangaProvince in the south of Luzon island.

South Korea – AH-64E Radars Contracted

Northrop Grumman and Lockheed Martin’s Longbow LLC joint venture, responsible for the Longbow fire control radar which equips the Boeing/McDonnell Douglas AH-64D/E Apache attack helicopters has been awarded a contract worth $50 million (€31.3 million).

The contract, the news of which was announced on 12th September, covers the provision of six radars, spare parts and support to South Korea. The country is purchasing 26 AH-64E Apaches which are expected to be delivered from 2016, with deliveries concluding in 2018.

In September’s ChainHomeHigh: Australia – ‘ANZAC’ Class Progress

The latest news regarding the installation of the CEAFAR and CEAMOUNT surveillance and fire control radars onboard the Royal Australian Navy’s ‘ANZAC’ class frigates …

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