A Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicle conducts tests over Naval Air Station Patuxent River, Md., in this undated file photo. (Northrop Grumman via U.S. Navy)
SEOUL — South Korea is not necessarily committed to buying U.S. Global Hawk surveillance drones, a spokesman said Dec. 26, after the Pentagon requested congressional permission for such a sale.
Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it would decide early next year whether to buy the high-altitude unmanned aerial vehicles made by Northrop Grumman that have come with a higher-than-expected price tag, at $1.2 billion for four of the drones.
“We will decide whether to proceed with the purchase plan only after we receive a letter of intent and carefully study the sale’s terms,” a DAPA spokesman told AFP.
Yonhap news agency quoted an unidentified top government official as saying Seoul could consider other choices, such as Boeing’s Phantom Eye and the California-based AeroVironment Global Observer.
The U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) said Dec. 25 it had notified Congress of a possible sale of four remotely piloted Global Hawk aircraft.
“We’ve never said we would buy no other surveillance drones than Global Hawks,” the South Korean official was quoted as saying by Yonhap after the price tag suggested by DSCA appeared to be prohibitively high.
“Competing drones could be considered,” the official said.
“Negotiations would have to start anywhere below 800 billion won ($745 million) in total, as was suggested by the U.S. side last October,” the official added.
South Korea relies heavily on ally the United States for intelligence gathering and surveillance capabilities over nuclear-armed North Korea.