A model of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter is displayed Oct. 28 during a press day for the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition in Goyang, north of Seoul. (AFP)
SEOUL — An international aerospace and defense exhibition kicked off here Tuesday with more than 300 defense firms at home and abroad participating in the biennial event.
A total of 360 aerospace and defense contractors from 28 countries as well as top military officials and CEOs from 45 nations are participating in the fair, the ninth of its kind, to showcase their latest weapons systems and technologies.
The exhibition at the Korea International Exhibition Hall (KINTEX) in Ilsan, just north of Seoul, continues through Nov. 3. The fair is focused on arms exhibition; an air show was held separately last week at an air base outside Seoul.
“This is the largest defense fair ever held in Seoul,” South Korea’s Defense Ministry Kim Kwan-jin said in a welcoming reception at a Seoul hotel Monday. “This exhibition is expected to serve as a venue for global aerospace and defense companies to boost their exchanges and cooperation further.”
This year’s show drew attention in the aftermath of a fiasco for the country’s fighter jet procurement program.
Last month, a top decision-making body of the country’s arms acquisition agency turned down the selection of Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle, which remained as the sole bidder after its competitors — Lockheed Martin’s F-35A Joint Strike Fighter and the Eurofighter Typhoon — had been priced out before final evaluations.
A task force led by officials from the Ministry of National Defense was set up to review the requirements before restarting the fighter jet project, codenamed the F-X III, for 60 high-end aircraft to replace the older fleet of the F-4s and F-5s.
Boeing, which won the previous two phases of the F-X plans for 60 aircraft, is still waiting on South Korea to re-issue its new requirements for the F-X III program.
“I think we’re reasonably confident that there is still prospect for the F-15,” said Howard Berry, Boeing’s F-X III campaign director. “Obviously, we’re waiting with much interest with what happens with the current task force team’s evaluations.”
Nevertheless, Boeing appeared to withdraw its Silent Eagle marketing in Korea, as the company is displaying an advanced F-15 model, not the Silent Eagle
Lockheed Martin is stepping up its campaign for the F-35, which is apparently the favorite of the F-X III program.
“The offer that the US government and Lockheed Martin submitted [to the Korean government] included the deliveries beginning in as early as 2017,” said David Scott, Lockheed’s F-35 campaign director. “We can still maintain those deliveries if there is a decision made to proceed forward in the near future.”
Lockheed Martin also showcased its signature missile interceptors, including the “hit-to-kill” Patriot Advanced Capability-3 (PAC-3) and the Terminal High Altitude Area Defense.
South Korea is pushing ahead with plans to upgrade its missile defense capability by upgrading its existing PAC-2 system that was bought from Germany in 2008.
South Korean defense manufacturers showed off their defense products ranging from aircraft, combat vehicles to rifles and sensor systems.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the nation’s largest aircraft maker, made the FA-50 public for the first time. The FA-50 is a light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet.
KAI also displayed the Surion utility helicopter jointly developed by Eurocopter, and unmanned aerial vehicles.
LIG Nex1, a top precision weapons producer, showcased portable surface-to-air missile Chiron; the GPS-guided bomb; and anti-ship missile Haeseong.
Samsung Techwin presented the EVO-105 truck-mounted howitzer. The EVO-105 consists of a standard South Korean KM500 five-ton truck chassis with the rear cargo area modified to accept the upper part of the US 105MM m101 towed howitzer.
The vehicle also features the fire control system used in Techwin’s 155mm/52-caliber K9 Thunder tracked self-propelled gun.
Meanwhile, India displayed its indigenous mobile missile launch system, Akashi. It is the first time that India showcased its weapons and equipment at an international event.
Officials from India’s Defence Research & Development Organisation said displaying Akashi is part of efforts to present the country’s strengths and expertise in design, development and production of weapons systems.