Unmanned Vehicles

Singapore Airshow 2020: ROKAF stands up Global Hawk unit

5th February 2020 - 06:00 GMT | by Gordon Arthur in Christchurch


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The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) established a new reconnaissance squadron in late 2019, to coincide with the arrival of the country’s first RQ-4B Block 30 Global Hawk on 23 December.

The first example of this HALE UAV arrived at an air base near Sacheon. South Korea ordered four Global Hawks in 2011, and the remaining three are due for arrival in the first half of 2020.

These assets are an important component in Seoul’s efforts to improve its ISR capabilities, particularly relating to coverage of its belligerent neighbour to the north. Instead of relying so heavily on the US, the Global Hawks will give South Korean surveillance efforts a big boost, as well as allowing the country to better monitor China and Japan.

The Ministry of National Defense said in a statement: ‘Currently, South Korea operates seven types of unmanned aerial vehicles, and about 800 units of drones have been in use for education, training and combat experiments.’

The ROK military is strongly pushing UAVs to enhance defensive capabilities, especially as the country faces declining numbers of conscripts.

Meanwhile, the ROKAF declared an initial operating capability for the F-35A fighter on 17 December 2019. The first aircraft belong to the 17th Fighter Wing based in Cheongju.

By the end of 2019, the ROKAF had received 13 F-35As of the 40 on order. An identical number are scheduled to arrive this year, and the remainder in 2021. Seoul signed a $6.3 billion contract in September 2014.

In other aerospace news relating to South Korea, the ROK Marine Corps (ROKMC) commissioned its first marine utility helicopter squadron in Pohang on 29 November 2019. However, the unit had been established as long ago as January 2018.

Marine Helicopter Squadron 1 is currently equipped with ten MUH-1 Marineon helicopters, a specialised variant of the Surion built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Its full complement will eventually be 18 aircraft.

Although this is the first complete helicopter squadron for the ROKMC, the service had possessed two small rotary-winged aviation units that were attached to the 1st Marine Division based in Pohang and the 2nd Marine Division located at Gimpo.

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