UAE to buy Korean air defense system for $3.5 billion
The United Arab Emirates (UAE) signed an agreement to buy Korea's mid-range surface-to-air missile (M-SAM) Block-2 defense system in a deal worth $3.5 billion, according to the Korean state defense procurement agency.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced Sunday that the UAE’s Tawazun Economic Council, which serves as the country’s defense procurement authority, signed contracts with LIG Nex1, Hanwha Systems and Hanwha Defense — developers of the Korean M-SAM system — more than two months after the Middle Eastern country’s defense ministry posted on Twitter that it was in an advanced stage of talks to acquire it.
The contracts were exchanged in Dubai in the presence of UAE Prime Minister Sheikh Mohammed bin Rashid Al Maktoum and President Moon Jae-in, who is in the country as part of an eight-day trip to the UAE, Saudi Arabia and Egypt.
Called Cheongung II, which means “heaven’s bow” in Korean, the M-SAM Block-2 system is a core element of Korea's anti-missile air defense program.
The UAE the first foreign buyer of Cheongung II and the system’s price tag of $3.5 billion makes it Korea’s single largest defense system export deal to date, according to DAPA chief Kang Eun-ho.
Kang said that other countries are also in talks to acquire the M-SAM Block-2 system, but did not go into details.
LIG Nex1 is the main contractor of the M-SAM Block-II defense system, which was manufactured in close partnership with Hanwha Systems and Hanwha Defense.
A single M-SAM Block-2 battery consists of a mobile multi-function radar made by Hanwha Systems, a command post vehicle made by Kia and Hanwha Defense, and usually four launchers, each carrying eight vertically launched missiles in canisters.
The first M-SAM system, which could intercept enemy aircraft, entered service with the Korean military in 2015. The upgraded M-SAM Block-2, developed by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) and manufactured by the three companies, is designed to also intercept lower-tier ballistic missiles flying at altitudes of below 40 kilometers.
LIG Nex1 began mass producing M-SAM Block-2 in 2018 after five years of development and delivered the system to the Korean military in November 2020.
It passed its final acceptance tests against both aircraft and ballistic targets in July and August in accordance with standards set by DAPA.
The deal comes as Seoul tries to make arms a major export industry.
In a meeting to discuss ways to promote the defense industry in September, President Moon Jae-in said the government plans to cut red tape and provide domestic defense manufacturers with state subsidies and diplomatic support.
During a speech at the Seoul Defense and Aerospace Exhibition in October, Moon said the country was catching up fast with advanced nations in the global defense market and should try to become a defense industry leader.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]