Intelligence: French ISR Aircraft Patrol The DMZ

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November 12, 2021: South Korea is expanding its fleet of business jets equipped for ISR (intelligence, surveillance, and reconnaissance) operations along the DMZ (land border with North Korea) and off the North Korean coast. South Korea is spending $747 million to purchase four 19-ton French Falcon-2000LXS business jets and having South Korean defense contractors LIG Nex1 and Huneed equip the aircraft with the necessary equipment. These four aircraft will join two ISR aircraft based on the older 18-ton Falcon-2000S aircraft that were delivered by 2018 and replace four 1990s vintage ISR aircraft based on the 12-ton British Hawker 800XP twin-jet business aircraft.

In 2006 the U.S. provided $200 million in upgrades and maintenance for South Korea's eight RC-800 electronic reconnaissance aircraft (these are twin-engine business jets reconfigured to perform recon missions) South Korea wanted to replace the RC-800s with more modern Falcom-2000 electronic reconnaissance aircraft. The French built Falcon-2000 has a longer range and can carry more equipment. This will improve the ability to track the use of North Korean electronic equipment along the DMZ.

Another factor is the problem South Korea has had in obtaining 13-ton Global Hawk UAV reconnaissance aircraft from the United States. Negotiations have not gone well, with the prices increasing and delivery dates receding farther into the future. The first two French Falcon 2000S aircraft were available more quickly and at much less the cost than the Global Hawk. South Korea was satisfied with the performance of the two Falcon 2000S ISR aircraft and found that the 2000S had been replaced by the similar but more efficient 2000LXS model. The 2021 contract will deliver the four Falcon 2000LXS ISR aircraft by 2026. By then the last four RC-800 aircraft will be retired.

Twin-jet business aircraft are also used to replace four-engine AWACs (Airborne Early Warning Aircraft) and similar JSTARS battlefield surveillance aircraft. This was made possible by the development of CAEW (Conformal Airborne Early Warning) AWACS on a business jet in 2008. This aircraft carried an Israeli Phalcon conformal (it is built into the lower fuselage) phased array radar plus SIGINT equipment to capture and analyze enemy electronic transmissions, and a communications system that can handle satellite signals as well as a wide array of other transmissions. Israel recently introduced a JSTARS version of this conformal radar. Several other nations have developed twin-jet business jet-based aircraft for these functions. Now South Korea has become another supplier of onboard equipment as local firms develop and build the sensors for the new ISR aircraft.

 


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