The Weekly Wire: For Your Situational Awareness 10.24.2019
2019 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition Update
Aaron Lin, Senior Market Analyst
Last week, the 2019 Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition took place in South Korea, displaying a wide array of Korean equipment being developed.
- A mockup of the KF-X was the centerpiece of the show, though news surrounding problems with late payments from Indonesia has consistently hung over the program for the past two years. The last reported payment Indonesia made was in January 2019. Indonesia has been unsatisfied with the amount of technology transfer it has received. Furthermore, the weakening of the Indonesian rupiah has made payments increasingly difficult. The KF-X recently finished a critical design review, and prototype development has begun.
- LIG Nex1 showcased its new air-launched cruise missile, designed with bunker-busting capability specifically in mind. The missile may have been designed with some support from Taurus Systems, which makes the Taurus KEPD 350 missile that South Korea purchased in 2013 and 2016. Taurus opened a South Korean office shortly after the first sale to support integration, technology transfer, and joint development.
- Korean Air displayed its KUS-VH unmanned helicopter and KUS-FS MALE UAS. The KUS-VH is an unmanned version of the MD500, of which the South Korean Army operates more than 250. The first flight took place last July, and development is expected to continue until 2021. The KUS-FS MALE UAS externally resembles the MQ-9 and is designed to perform ISR missions. The two prototypes that have been developed do not have hardpoints for weapons, but those would presumably be added later. Hanwha is developing an air-launched anti-tank missile that would be fitted onto the Light Armed Helicopter. This missile is small enough that it could potentially be integrated with KUS-FS. Production was planned to begin in 2020, but it is unclear if Korean Air will make this date.
- Hanwha Defense is in early stages of development of the KAAV-II, a replacement for the KAAV-7. The KAAV-7 is based on the American AAV-7, a nearly 50-year-old design. The new amphibious assault vehicle will feature improved firepower and higher speed. Development is expected to last through 2028, with production to begin the following year. The geography of Asian-Pacific countries, as well as the prevailing threat perceptions in the region, have made amphibious assault vehicles like the KAAV-7, and the AAV-7 upon which it is based, increasingly important. Outside of South Korea, the AAV-7 and its variants are found in the US, Japan, Taiwan, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand.
On October 18, Japan announced that it will join NASA’s lunar exploration program, known as Artemis, becoming the second country to join the program. While exact details of Japan’s involvement were not disclosed, a statement released by the Japanese government states that their involvement could range from assisting with the Lunar Gateway, providing logistical services for the HTV-X cargo vehicle, to working on lunar transportation services. Japan’s participation with Artemis is driven by a variety of factors including closer cooperation with the US on space exploration; security; and commercial opportunities. Canada was the first country to announce its participation with the lunar exploration program in February 2019, with plans to develop a robotic arm for the Gateway program, spending $1.5 billion over 24 years. NASA’s Artemis program is planning to land American astronauts on the moon by 2024, with the goal to “establish sustainable missions by 2028.” Under the program, NASA will launch astronauts to the Lunar Gateway using a new rocket onboard the Orion spacecraft. Once the astronauts are onboard the Lunar Gateway, the crew will then conduct missions to the moon before returning back to Earth.
On October 18, the Czech Ministry of Defense announced an update regarding its infantry fighting vehicle (IFV) competition. The winner of the competition will provide the Czech Republic with 210 IFVs for approximately $2.2 billion. PSM Projekt System & Management GmbH has dropped out of the competition, but the Czech Republic received three bids from other suppliers: General Dynamics’ Ascod, BAE Systems’ CV90, and Rheinmetall’s Lynx. The new IFVs will replace the Czech Republic’s aging inventory of BVP-2 IFVs, with a contract to be awarded in 2020.
In order to further its campaign against Boko Haram, Nigeria is looking to procure additional attack helicopters from Russia during their summit this week. This purchase would augment the 12 Mi-35Ms that Nigeria purchased in 2015, of which six have been delivered since December 2016 and two more slated to be delivered by the end of 2019. However, these discussions have the added complication of taking place after the United States passed sanctions against the Russian arms industry under the Countering America’s Adversaries Through Sanctions Act. The law, which places sanctions upon nations who purchase Russian equipment, has stymied several countries’ attempts to procure Russian weapons and has led to the adoption of several unconventional payment methods by countries in order to process the payment of these sales.