South Korean military will soon receive a system used to analyze imagery taken by its fleet of four RQ-4 Global Hawk drones from the United States.
Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said Tuesday that the devices would be brought in by December following delays incurred by COVID-19 and prolonged negotiations with U.S. manufacturers and the government.
The devices will enable Seoul to obtain aerial reconnaissance data from the North Korean interior and key nuclear and missile sites like the Yongbyon nuclear complex or Tongchang-ri launch site. The military currently relies on Washington to provide such data since visibility of its spy planes does not extend to areas north of Pyongyang.
Seoul is also presently upgrading the identification friend or foe (I.F.F.) system installed on the RQ-4 to Mode 5 in line with U.S. requirements.
The U.S. last month completed delivery of four Global Hawks that Seoul bought in 2011. The unmanned aircraft is equipped with high-resolution imaging devices and radars that enable it to detect objects as small as 30cm from an altitude of 20km. From such an altitude, the drone can operate for around 40 hours and survey a distance of up to 3,000km.
Additionally, DAPA said it is expecting delivery of 16 more F-35A fighter jets by next year. It has so far received 24 of 40 ordered F-35 aircraft.