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ROKAF aggiornerà i suoi F16?

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South Korea Looking to Upgrade its KF-16s





The Korea times reports that ROKAF is looking to upgrade its F-16C/D fleet’s radar and armament, as part of the 2010-2014 arms acquisition and management package being submitted to President Lee Myung-bak for approval. The ROKAF currently operates about 135 “KF-16” fighters, many of which were built in Korea between 1994-2004 under a $5.5 billion licensing agreement.


Key upgrades will include new radars to replace the existing APG-68v5/v7 systems, upgrading avionics and computers, and improving cabling and databuses to MIL-STD-1760. With these upgrades, the aircraft will be able to carry GPS-guided weapons, AIM-9X Sidewider missiles, and other new equipment. IAI’s EL/M-2032 radar, equips many Israeli F-16s, and has been exported to several countries for use on several aircraft types. It will equip the ROKAF’s future F/A-50 lightweight fighters, and The Korea Times reports that it is receiving strong consideration for ROKAF KF-16s as well.


The report said that US weapons export restrictions are playing a role in South Korea’s radar choice. A recent official request to the USA appears to confirm their story, though the problem may not lie in the US State Department…



Korea’s KF-16 Radar Dilemma






“The Air Force actually wanted the more advanced U.S. active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar but modified the plan due to the U.S. law forbidding the export of state-of-the-art and sensitive weapons systems, [the military source] said.”


F-16s have several AESA radar versions to choose from. Northrop Grumman’s AN/APG-80 radar equips the United Arab Emirates’ F-16E/F Desert Falcons, and the firm has gone on to develop a system called SABR (Scalable Agile Beam Radar) as a drop-in AESA replacement for existing F-16 radars. Raytheon has taken similar steps, developing an AESA radar called RACR (Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar) for the same purpose.


The AN/APG-80 has already been exported, and was recently proposed for Lockheed Martin’s MMRCA bid in India. SABR and RACR were also developed with exports strongly in mind. It is doubtful that the US State Department would refuse South Korea any of these radars, if it requested them.




On the other hand, Korea Aerospace Industries has a very broad set of cooperation agreements with Lockheed Martin, from licensing to build and maintain the ROKAF’s F-16s, to the T-50 family’s development and international marketing agreements. One of those agreements states that the T-50 family of trainers and lightweight fighters may not be equipped with radars more sophisticated than the ones carried in the ROKAF’s KF-16s.


That clause is what forced KAI to abandon SELEX’s Vixen 500E AESA radar for the F/A-50, and select IAI Elta’s EL/M-2032 mechanically-scanned radar instead. Adding AESA radars to the KF-16s would remove those strictures, opening the door for similar additions to the F/A-50. The result would be a $25-30 million AESA-equipped lightweight fighter for the global export market, which would be a strong competitor for existing ($40-55 million) F-16s. It could even affect broader ($80-100 million) F-35 exports, thanks to its combination of advanced capabilities and traditional lightweight fighter price.






May 26/09: The US Defense Security Cooperation Agency announces the South Korea government’s official request for equipment and services to support the upgrade of 35 F-16 Block 32 Aircraft. The estimated cost is $250 Million.


The announcement is as significant for what it does not contain, as it is for the few details it does mention. There is no mention of radars, which would require notification. Instead, the announcement simply mentions a request:


”...to support the upgrade of 35 F-16 Block 32 aircraft to allow employment of Joint Direct Attack Munitions, Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Improved Data Modem, and Secure Voice capabilities….”


The contract is likely to involve wiring, avionics and computing module upgrades, including the installation of MIL-STD-1760 databuses to accommodate GPS-guided weapons. Test and support equipment, spare and repair parts, and other forms of support are also part of this request. The prime contractor will be F-16 manufacturer Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company in Fort Worth, TX, and a follow-on contract would require temporary travel for U.S. Government or contractor representatives to the Republic of Korea for in-country support.


The lack of any radar request fuels speculation that Korean-Israeli defense ties are about to take another step forward, via a contract for IAI Elta’s EL/M-2032 radars.

Edited by intruder
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