South Korea accelerates maritime VTOL UAV development

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 29 January that it will commence development of a vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) rotary wing unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) that will be embarked on the Republic of Korea Navy (RoKN) surface warfare ships and Marine Corps (RoKMC) naval bases for reconnaissance missions.

DAPA added that the UAV development will be led by Hanwha Systems under a programme funding worth up to ₩143 billion through December 2028.

According to DAPA, the UAV will be equipped with a mission payload comprising an electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR) camera and a multifunctional radar that will enable it to conduct maritime and land surveillance.

“The Northwest Islands have been continuously provoked by North Korea, so more thorough surveillance and reconnaissance are needed,” said DAPA. It had earlier revealed that the new rotary-wing UAV will be deployed with the RoKN’s KDX-II guided missile destroyers.

South Korean industry had in the past pursued rotary wing UAV development. For example Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced in January 2023 that it had signed an agreement with Northrop Grumman to develop VTOL UAVs for potential use aboard the naval and coastguard vessels.

KAI has been developing its own rotary-wing VTOL UAV based on a 600 kg-class light helicopter called the Night Intruder 600 VT. The effort represents the company’s first attempt at developing a VTOL UAV and originally intended to address future Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) requirements.

LIG Nex1 has also showcased its VTOL UAV development at the MADEX International Maritime Defense Industry Exhibition in Busan in mid-2023. Called the Multi-Purpose Unmanned Helicopter (MPUH), the air vehicle is also designed to serve on board the RoKN’s principal surface warfare ships to provide organic long-range observation and targeting support.

by Jr Ng