UAVs Dominate Seoul Air Show
By Wendell Minnick and Jung Sung-ki
SEOUL - Unmanned aerial vehicles have dominated the 7th Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX), with both foreign and local companies displaying a variety of models. The trade show began Tuesday and runs through Sunday at the Seoul Airport.
Israel's Elbit Systems displayed models of the Hermes 90, 450 and 900 UAVs, along with the Skylark I.
"There is a lot of interest here in Korea for UAVs," said an Elbit representative.
South Korea is looking at intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) platforms for the time being, and "our platforms can handle that requirement," the representative said. "We are very flexible about integrating indigenous systems built for the customer."
Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) displayed two unmanned systems: the Heron medium-range long endurance (MALE) UAV system for strategic and tactical missions and the HAROP Loitering Weapon System.
"Local companies are looking at partnerships for a local build, and IAI is interested in working with them," a company official said. "However, a local UAV program could take 10 years to develop, and IAI is interested in providing an interim solution until they have their own capabilities."
South Korea has expressed interest in the HAROP, which is "basically a flying bomb" with an eight-hour loitering time, the official said. Unlike the anti-radiation HARPY, which seeks out radar installations, the HAROP uses an electro-optical payload and is used against high-value targets.
Northrop Grumman came with a mockup of the Global Hawk high-altitude, long-range UAV. Thomas Twomey, the company's director of Global Hawk business development, said with a maximum operational altitude of 60,000 feet, the Global Hawk system would meet all of South Korea's ISR requirements with only two to four aircraft.
"The Global Hawk is designed to replace the U-2 spy plane when it retires in 2012. It has a 98.8 percent effective time on station and is 91 percent mission capable," Twomey said. "Currently, the U.S. and [South] Korean governments are in negotiations on the release of the Global Hawk, and there is a lot of support from both sides for a release."
South Korea also is interested in Northrop's MQ-8 Fire Scout vertical-takeoff-and-landing (VTOL) UAV for both land-based and ship-based ISR missions.
Other foreign companies displaying models and giving briefings on UAV programs include EADS; the pan-European company has displayed its Talarion unmanned aerial system. Meanwhile, Saab of Sweden has displayed its Skeldar VTOL helicopter for sea-based missions.
South Korean companies have come out strong with a variety of unmanned aerial systems:
* Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is showcasing a lightweight tactical UAV that uses a parachute recovery system. The Night Intruder NI-100N, a modified variant of the NI-100 (which uses a net recovery system), has undergone successful test trials and is waiting on more upgrades, said Koo Chung-seo, senior research engineer with KAI's UAV system integration section.
The Night Intruder could possibly meet the requirements of the South Korean Army, Koo said. The Army plans to deploy division-level tactical UAVs in the next few years, in an effort to boost its ISR capability for the 2012 transition of wartime operational control from the U.S. military to South Korean commanders.
"With its compact size and lightweight air vehicle and ground control station equipped with data link, launcher [and] parachute/airbag recovery system, the NI-100N is an optimum UAV solution for the [Army's] ISR needs," Koo said.
The NI-100N is retrieved by soft landing, with the assistance of a parafoil and inflatable airbag. By using the parachute recovery system and a lighter launcher, troops can conduct missions in almost all field environments and weather conditions with mobility, as it allows air vehicle recovery on unprepared terrain, KAI officials said.
The 2.5-meter-long UAV has a service ceiling of 3 kilometers and a mission radius of 60 kilometers. It can operate for up to six hours and has a speed of 90 to 180 kilometers. Its maximum takeoff weight is 100 kilograms.
* In addition, KAI unveiled the concept of the Korean Combat Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (K-CUAV). The stealthy attack variant now under development would be able to carry out air-to-air and air-to-ground missions, as well as ISR missions, said a KAI source.
The K-CUAV is to feature a low-observable design, including internal weapon carriage, an electro-optical/infrared targeting system and fly-by-wire digital control system.
The 8.4-meter-long UAV will have a wingspan of 9.1 meters and cruise at a top speed of Mach 0.86. It will have a service ceiling of 12 kilometers and five hours of operational endurance, as well as a combat radius of 280 kilometers.
* The Kyung An Cable Co. unveiled the VTOL Urban Star UAV. Company representatives said South Korea's military and the Turkish government have expressed interest in the Urban Star. The UAV's payload ranges from 3 to 5 kilograms, with a mission endurance of 30 to 90 minutes.
The company also displayed the RAT-1J aerial high-speed target system for advanced air defense training. Pakistan has expressed interest in the system.
Two relatively unknown domestic companies, Oneseen Skytech and Ucon Systems, displayed smaller but impressive unmanned systems.
* Ucon Systems showed off the RemoEye-002, -006 and -015 fixed-wing unmanned aerial systems and the RemoH-C100 and M100 VTOL UAVs. Indonesia and the United Arab Emirates have expressed interest in the aircraft, and South Korea's military is looking at the RemoEye-006.
* Oneseen Skytech displayed its line of VTOL UAVs, which are relatively small, with a maximum payload of 30 kilograms and a flight time of 90 to 120 minutes.
They can be equipped with surveillance and reconnaissance sensors and operated in semi- or full automatic modes. Since 2008, the company has exported the systems to China, France and Turkey.