Korean Air has been selected by the state-run Agency for Defense Development (ADD) on 12 August as the preferred bidder to develop stealth unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) for use by combat squadrons, the company said in a 16 August statement.
According to Korean Air, stealth UAV squadron is being developed for the first time in Korea as a part of the ADD’s “Future Challenge Defense Technology R&D Project” to develop new weapon systems. It had “received high scores for its technology in the first stage of the bidding process”.
Korean Air added that ADD began developing the UAV squadron in November 2021 and has completed the basic design. Detailed design will be carried out jointly by ADD and the company. The UAV is understood to be tentatively named Korean Unmanned System-Loyal Wingman (KUS-LW), according to images of the concept model released by the company.
“Korean Air will develop a manned-unmanned teaming system in which one manned aircraft and three to four stealth UAVs can carry out missions simultaneously,” the company said.
“The squadron of UAVs will not only support and escort a manned aircraft, but will also be able to perform its own missions including surveillance, electronic interference tactics, and precise shooting,” it added, noting that work will centre on developing a manned-unmanned teaming system that enables a crewed aircraft to be linked to between three and four stealth UAVs during operational missions. However, the company asserted that the stealth UAVs will also be capable of performing missions on their own.
Korean Air says it will leverage on its decade of experience in developing low observable UAVs with the ADD for the latest programme. Between 2010 and August 2021, the company had developed a stealthy, tailless UAV demonstrator known as the Kaori-X under the auspices of the ADD. The prototype UAV achieved first flight in September 2015 and was used to validate key technologies and techniques.
The company also entered into an agreement with the Korea Research Institute for Defense Technology Planning and Advancement (KRIT) to develop low-observable technologies for next-generation UAVs. Its workshare is understood to centre on radar cross-section (RCS) reduction and expected to be performed through 2025. As part of this project, it has also partnered with six local research institutes and universities, including KETI (Korea Electronics Technology Institute) and Inha University.
by Jr Ng