South Korea emerging as key arms supplier amid billion-dollar deals with Poland, Malaysia
- Korea Aerospace Industries is expected to sign an executive contract this week to export 48 FA-50 aircraft to Poland for some US$3 billion
- South Korean total arms exports in 2022 are likely to surpass US$10 billion, up from US$7 billion last year
“South Korea is one of a few countries in the world that have arms production capacities that are able to meet the growing needs of countries in the current geopolitical turmoil,” Senior Researcher Kim Mi-jung at the Korea Institute for Industrial Economics and Trade (KIET) told This Week in Asia.
SBS TV, citing a well-informed industry source, said a representative of Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), the developer of the supersonic FA-50, left for Poland on Tuesday to sign a contract this week to export 48 of the aircraft for some US$3 billion.
The deal with Poland will be “the largest in history in terms of the exports of FA-50”, the source was quoted as saying.
A KAI spokesman declined to comment until the agreements are signed – which could take place by the end of the week according to SBS TV.
KAI is also expected to sign a separate contract with Malaysia to export 18 FA-50s worth US$1 billion dollars “as early as next week”, SBS TV said.
KAI is seeking to arm the exportable FA-50s with air-to-air missiles and the localised AESA (Active electronically scanned array) radar that detect multiple targets simultaneously, according to the SBS TV report.
Based on the airframe of KAI’s T-50 trainer, the FA-50, featuring combat data processing and self-protection systems and precision guided weapons, has been deployed and operated in the South Korean air force since 2013.
The impending deal to export 48 FA-50 jet fighters to Poland has been envisioned under the framework contracts announced in July, through which Warsaw is also committed to procuring 980 K2 tanks and 648 K9 howitzers from South Korea.
The contracts could potentially be worth up to 25 trillion won (US$18 billion), making them one of Poland’s “most important and largest” defence orders in recent years according to Warsaw’s defence ministry.
Last month, Hyundai Rotem Co. and Hanwha Defense signed contracts worth US$5.76 billion with Warsaw’s Armament Agency for the initial delivery of 180 K2 tanks and for 212 K9 “Thunder” howitzers. The weapons will be provided between now and 2026.
The orders from Poland mark the latest in a series of major arms procurement contracts awarded to South Korea this year, whose total arms exports in 2022 are likely to surpass US$10 billion, up from US$7 billion last year.
Hanwha Defense also hopes to be selected as the preferred bidder to supply about 400 next-generation infantry fighting vehicles to Australia.
According to Stockholm International Peace research Institute, South Korea was the eighth largest global arms exporter between 2017-21, with a 2.8 per cent share. Seoul’s exports for the five-year period jumped 177 per cent from the previous five years.