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Peace Eye 737 AEW&C - E-X Early Warning Aircraft

The Peace Eye program includes four 737 AEW&C aircraft, plus ground support segments for mission crew training, mission support and system maintenance. Based on the Boeing Next-Generation 737-700 commercial airplane, the 737 AEW&C aircraft is designed to provide airborne-battle-management capability with an advanced multirole electronically scanned radar and state-of-the-art mission crew consoles that are able to track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously. The mission crew can direct offensive and defensive forces while maintaining continuous surveillance of the operational area.

Republic of Korea had no air surveillance radar aircraft and had relied on US forces for airborne early warning systems. Only about 10 countries around the world, including Turkey and Australia, possess early warning aircraft. AEW&C systems play a major role on the modern battlefield by providing, in real time, the intelligence and control necessary to achieve and maintain air superiority over the combat area, and assisting in keeping surveillance along the borders in peacetime.

In 1996 the ROKAF shortlisted three contenders - the Boeing E-767 fitted with the Northrop Grumman APY-2 radar, an Elta Phalcon-equipped 767 and the Ericsson Erieye mounted on the Saab 2000 turboprop. The Asian financial crisis resulted in the E-X program being shelved. The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) rekindled its dormant requirement for an airborne early warning & control (AEW&C) aircraft with the release to industry of a request for proposals (RFP) in late 2000.

General Dynamics' Gulfstream Aerospace, Israel Aircraft Industries Elta Systems Ltd. and L3 Communications formed a team to compete for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) Airborne Early Warning (AEW) System E-X Program. Gulfstream would provide a G550 aircraft with all the necessary modifications for support of the installation of the required electronics equipment. Elta, Gulfstream and L-3 Communications were offering the G-550 AEW with some adaptations, to the Republic of Korea Air Force, in response to their RFP. This system complies with all the RoKAF requirements including cooperation with local industries and transfer of know-how. Boeing downsized its offering to the 737 equipped with the Northrop Grumman and MESA phased-array radar based on the system selected by Australia and competing for the Turkish order. With the Saab 2000 no longer in production, Ericsson teamed with Embraer to offer the EMB-145SA equipped with the Erieye, as selected by Brazil and Greece.

In February 2004 it was announced that ROK would purchase four airborne surveillance aircraft by 2011 in order to strengthen and significantly improve its air defense system. "By securing these airborne early warning systems, we will be able to precisely detect and track movements of North Korean troops," said Maj. Gen. Won Jang-hwan, the ministry's top procurement officer. Won said, "Also, the equipment is of great use in the event all of our ground radar systems are destroyed. The ROK military to date has relied on U.S. surveillance planes based in Okinawa, Japan."

Five models were on the list of candidates: the A320-200 of France's Thales, the IL-76 and G-550 from Israel's IAI/Elta and American models A321-200 from L3-Com and B737-700 from Boeing. The MND planned to select the winning bidder based on our demands and price merits. The aircraft are intended to detect and identify airborne objects, determine their co-ordinates and flight path data, and transfer the information to command posts. They also act as control centers in guiding fighter-interceptors and tactical air force aircraft to combat areas in order to attack ground targets at low altitudes.

The project, codenamed E-X, was initially designed to improve the nation's independent surveillance capabilities by acquiring four early warning planes by 2011. But it had been temporarily suspended after one of the bidders went out of the competition. Previously, G-550 of Israel's Elta and B-737 of Boeing were competing, but the G-550 failed to meet requirements, making it difficult to maintain a competitive system in the bidding. In late 2004 South Korea chose the IAI team and Boeing as the two finalists for a bid reportedly worth $1.7 billion to supply four aircraft by the end of the decade.

The PHALCON radar was developed and produced by ELTA, and delivered to Chile in 1995. Contrary to conventional AWACS aircraft, which contain a mechanically rotating antenna (Rotodome), the PHALCON is based on innovative Active Phased Array Electronic Scanning Technology, giving it a new dimension of operational flexibility and improving it's performance by orders of magnitude.

At a test conducted in December 2004, radar detection capabilities of the Israeli firm turned out to be short of required distance. "To maintain competitive bidding, we will allow all foreign firms including Elta and Boeing to join in," said Army Maj. Gen. Won Jang-hwan, director general of the ministry's acquisition policy bureau. Won said the ministry still plans to buy four early warning aircrafts but the procurement deadline would be delayed by one year. Under the new timeline, two early warning aircraft would be procured by 2010 and the other two by 2012. "We are also considering of changing requirements for new bidders so that we can maintain a bidding system," said Won.

The ministry had required the aircraft to have a maximum speed exceeding 300 knots, to operate at the height of 26,500 feet, and to stay in the air for at least six hours. It should also be equipped with an electronic 360-degree radar system, which can detect objects within a 370 km radius.

In February 2005 the Ministry of National Defense decided to resume the stalled $1.9 billion project of procuring early warning aircraft. The ministry planned to receive bidders for the project again in late March 2005, and to select a successful bidder in December 2005 in an open competition. Won suggested that at least three bidders were needed for the project to gain cost-effectiveness from the competition. The ministry had set aside about 94 billion won ($89 million) from the budget 2005 for the project.

On 26 May 2005 the Defense Ministry announced its mid-term defense plan including key arms-procurement projects to deal with North Korea on its own, focusing its surveillance, communication and long-range target capabilities. To guarantee South Korea's independent information-gathering capabilities, it would proceed with the Air Force's airborne reconnaissance system or AWACS. Under the 2 trillion won (about $1.9 billion) project, the Air Force plans to deploy four early warning and control aircraft between 2009 and 2011.

By early December 2005 the ROK Air Forces was expected to make a decision by the end of the year. The Israeli proposal by Israel Aircraft Industries and Elta Systems, based on the American-made G-550 Gulfstream Aerospace aircraft with the Israeli Phalcon radar, was for four planes at a cost of 1.2 billion dollars. The American proposal, based on Boeing's E-737 AWACS, had an estimated cost of $1.5 billion to over $2 billion.

On 21 December 2005 the ROK Defense Ministry announced that the selection of the winner would be delayed until May 2006, saying that both Boeing and IAI had failed to submit necessary documentation by an October deadline 2005. The selection was originally planned for 2004, and then delayed to late 2005. Boeing had not submited data on the ground satellite communication system, while IAI did not supply data on its satellite and data-link communication systems.

Boeing Korea Co. said in a statement. "We're disappointed, especially since this is the second time in two years that the E-X program decision has been delayed... "We believe we met all the requirements for the program and were anxious to supply the ROK (South Korea) with this state-of-the-art self-defense capability...".

The US had issued an export license for Boeing's early warning aircraft, but as of early 2006 had not granted an export license to IAI/ELTA, whose E-X project includes American communication devices subject to export controls. The postponement of the decision favored Elta, providing an additional five months to obtain US export license for American-origin communication codes. Elta and General Dynamic's Gulfstream Aerospace have teamed with the US-based DRS Technologies to supply the communications suite. Over half the IAI contains US content. DRS required export license for five data links that allow the aircraft to exchange information with each other and ground stations, as well as the IFF (identification Friend or Foe) codes. Export of these commodities are strictly prohibited without a valid export license issued by the U.S. Department of State Office of Defense Trade Controls prescribed in the International Traffic in Arms Regulation (ITAR), Title 22, Code of Federal Regulation, Parts 120-130.

On 04 January 2006 Kim Jung-il, the chief of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said that the agency would give priority to economic factors in deciding the winning contractor for the 2 trillion won contract. "Economic feasibility will be the top consideration once bidders meet the required operational capability," Kim told reporters before the opening ceremony for the new agency. At that time, IAI/ELTA had reportedly asked $1.1 billion, while Boeing asked $1.5 billion, cutting as much as $800 million from its original proposal. His remarks suggested that the ROK government was leaning toward the Israeli proposal.

On 05 January 2006 The Hill reported that former US Attorney General John Ashcroft's lobbying company had been hired by Israel Aircraft Industries International (IAI) in December 2005. The lobby filing disclosure program at the Office of Public Records showed the Washington-based Ashcroft Group had three people assigned to IAI on "export control issues."

The decision came at a time when South Korea was distancing itself from the United States, which was increasingly viewed through the prism of the colonial relationship with Japan. The 2002 election of President Roh Moo-hyun was a watershed, brining into office a vocal critic of the United States on an upsurge of anti-American sentiment. While anti-Americanism was not new to South Korea, by 2005 anti-American sentiments appeared to have spread throughout South Korean society, most notably government policymakers. Thus, all else being equal, there would be a natural political preference for purchasing from a source other than the United States. If all else is not equal, it would be politically very difficult to purchase from an American source that offered a more expensive or inferior product on less favorable terms. The December 2005 selection of Eurocopter for the KHP program exemplified this trend. South Korea had already purchased a number of Israeli weapons systems, including IAI's Harpy anti-radar drone, the EHUD air combat training debriefing system, the Popeye-2 standoff missile and night vision systems.

However, on Nov. 27, 2006 The Boeing Company announced the signing of a $1.59 billion contract to provide four 737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) systems for the Republic of Korea's EX program. The Boeing team's solution also includes ground support segments for flight and mission crew training, mission support and aircraft and system modification support. Delivery of the first 737 AEW&C aircraft is scheduled for 2011. The remaining three aircraft are scheduled for delivery in 2012.

"The 737 AEW&C system gives the Republic of Korea a powerful capability for airborne surveillance, communications and battle management. It also provides increased security for the Korean peninsula against today's threats and those in the future," said Jim Albaugh, president and chief executive officer of Boeing Integrated Defense Systems.

Northrop Grumman Electronic Systems would provide a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar, the critical sensor on board the 737 AEW&C. The MESA array is designed to provide optimal performance in range, tracking and accuracy. It is able to track airborne and maritime targets simultaneously and can help the mission crew direct fighter aircraft while continuously scanning the operational area.

Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) would perform aircraft modification and mission equipment modification and checkout. Modification of the first aircraft would occur at a Boeing facility. KAI would modify the remaining aircraft in Sachon, Korea.

Boeing had sold 10 737 AEW&C aircraft to date: six for Australia's Project Wedgetail and four for Turkey's Peace Eagle program. The first Wedgetail aircraft successfully completed an aircraft performance and flight handling test program in 2005. Additionally, airborne radar testing was under way on the second Wedgetail at Boeing facilities in Seattle. Wedgetail aircraft numbers 3 and 4 were undergoing modifications at a Boeing Australia facility in Amberley. Turkey's first Peace Eagle aircraft was undergoing modifications at Boeing facilities in Seattle, while TUSAS Aerospace Industries was modifying Peace Eagle aircraft numbers 2 and 3 in Ankara, Turkey.

737 AEW&C is the right-sized solution to meet the requirements of the Republic of Korea and features state-of-the art avionics, navigation equipment and flight deck features. There also is a worldwide base of suppliers, parts and support equipment. The aircraft has significant growth capability in terms of power, cooling, weight and space, allowing it to incorporate emerging technologies.

Boeing delivered the third Peace Eye 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) on 16 May 2012. The aircraft was delivered ahead of schedule to ROKAF Base Gimhae, the main operating base for the Peace Eye fleet. Peace Eye No. 3 was the second aircraft in the fleet to be modified into an AEW&C configuration by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) at its facility in Sacheon. "A key factor in our continuing success in delivering Peace Eye's powerful capability is the close working relationship that exists among the Boeing team, the ROKAF, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, and our Korean and U.S. industry partners," said Randy Price, Boeing Peace Eye program manager.

The last Peace Eye aircraft being modified by KAI was to be delivered to the ROKAF at the end of 2012. Boeing on Oct. 24 2017 delivered the fourth and final 737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEW&C) aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).

Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) had been pushing to buy two more early warning aircraft. Currently, the Air Force operates four Boeing 737-based Peace Eye aircraft since 2011. The AEW&C aircraft equipped with advanced radar systems is designed to detect aircraft and other vehicles at long ranges and conduct command and control of the battlefield in an air engagement by directing strikes by fighter jets. The project aims to better counter growing security threats by neighboring countries and to minimize possible surveillance vacuums.

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Page last modified: 13-09-2021 14:44:22 ZULU