Korean Air to purchase four Falcon 2000S jets for medium-altitude spy plane program

By Lim Chang-won Posted : July 1, 2021, 16:25 Updated : November 2, 2021, 08:22

[Courtesy of Korean Air]

SEOUL -- South Korea's top flag carrier Korean Air will bring in four twin-engine Falcon 2000S business jets from France's Dassault Aviation to turn them into medium-altitude Baekdu spy planes. To reduce its dependence on U.S. intelligence, South Korean troops have bolstered intelligence capabilities by purchasing more spy planes or upgrading the surveillance capabilities of those in service.

The South Korean military is currently operating six Baekdu-class reconnaissance planes. Korean Air said new Baekdu reconnaissance planes would have an instrument information collection function that captures the exchange of signals between electronic equipment and a flame detection function that can determine whether a missile has been launched.

Korean Air said it has already sealed an agreement with Dassault to purchase four Falcon 2000s aircraft that would be modified with an injection of some 870 billion won ($768 million) from 2022 to 2026 to reinforce Baekdu aircraft's capabilities to detect and gather signals from North Korean missile and nuclear sites.

South Korea's aerial reconnaissance system is based on E-737 airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, RQ-4 Global Hawks and RC-800s. Four E-737s are already in service in South Korea. The Boeing 737 AEW&C is a twin-engine airborne early warning and control aircraft and has a fixed, active electronically scanned array radar antenna.

A high-altitude reconnaissance squadron with RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles has been set up to support ground troop actions by scanning and tracking the movement of enemy missiles and troops. Air force officials believe RQ-4s will enhance South Korea's operational capabilities as they will work together with advanced stealth jets.

For the Baekdu program, South Korea has deployed RC-800s based on Raytheon's Hawker 800XP to intercept radio signals from electronic devices as well as Falcon 2000's modified aircraft. Efforts to acquire independent technology and homemade reconnaissance aircraft have been largely unsuccessful.
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