A South Korean AH-64 Apache helicopter participates in a military firepower test.

Thousands of South Korean jet fighters, helicopters, warships and missile systems will probably be fitted with sophisticated identifications technologies by the mid-2020s within a major weapons upgrade program, according to the military and defense companies.

For the $2.2 billion deal to exchange the decades-old Mode-4 Identification Friend or Foe, or IFF, system for the latest Mode-5, South Korea’s arms procurement agency has begun issuing a request proposals.

“The quantity of equipment qualified to apply for the Mode-5 upgrade account approximately 2,000 linked to 70 weapons systems,” as outlined by a spokesman to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. “The request for proposals will stayed issued separately by the varieties of weapons systems in the coming weeks.”

The upgrade program is at line with the transfer of IFF systems for the Mode-5 version by the U.S military, as the South Korean military conducts key operations with U.S. forces for the Korean Peninsula under the authority with the Combined Forces Command.

By 2020, all NATO nations must introduce the Mode-5 systems, using advanced cryptographic strategies to secure their systems against electronic deception by adversaries.

“This is a large program as for the numbers and budget, and is strategically imperative that you upgrading the battlefield capability of the South Korean military and it is joint operations with allied forces,” said Kim Dae-young, a military analyst at the Korea Research Institute for National Strategy.

“The new encrypted system enables South Korean and its particular allied troops to function safely together, lowering the probability of friendly fire incidents, and will also offer commanders a greater view with the battlefield,” Kim added.

IFF works by sending coded signals, with equipment on friendly planes and ships capable of receive and instantly decode the encrypted challenge message, then send the correct reply to identify themselves.

Three South Korean defense manufacturers are competing to the IFF upgrade contract by teaming with foreign IFF developers. They are Hanwha Systems, teaming with U.S. company Raytheon and Hensoldt of Germany; LIG Nex1, with Italy’s Leonardo and Thales of France; and Korea Aerospace Industries, joining hands with BAE Systems of the United Kingdom.

Unlike the installation in the Mode-4, the technologies which fit in with foreign IFF makers, domestic companies get excited about the Mode-5 systems development and may locally produce the apparatus for cost-effectiveness and sustainable integrated logistics support, according to Defense Acquisition Program Administration officials.

Hanwha Systems, a number one defense electronics company formerly generally known as Samsung Thales, claims it has the benefit of having know-how related to IFF integration and design.

“Our company what food was in handle of nearly all Mode-4 upgrade programs in cooperation with foreign partners,” said Yoon Seok-joon, a consultant with Hanwha Systems’ avionics business team. “Through the ability, we’ve got superior familiarity with IFF design and functions than other local competitors. This is a clear advantage.”

LIG Nex1, a precision missile developer, formed a task force in 2016 for Mode-5 upgrade work to seek related technology for localization.

As an end result, the business successfully localized a Mode-5 system for its KP-SAM Shin-Gung (or Chiron) shoulder-launched surface-to-air missiles with the help of Thales, which can be contracted to deliver Mode-5 technologies for ground weapons systems.

“Based around the successful continuing development of a Mode-5 device for Shin-Gung, we’re now able to independently develop Mode-5 equipment for other weapons systems, for example Hybrid Biho air defense system; Chunma short-range surface-to-air missile; and TPS-830K low-altitude radar,” said Park Jung-ho, program manager of LIG Nex1’s Mode-5 upgrade team.

To help facilitate the certification of the company’s Mode-5 systems by the U.S. Defense Department, LIG Nex1 recently signed a legal contract while using U.S. defense system certification contractor KBR.
Korea Aerospace Industries is predicted to win contracts for Mode-5 devices to get fitted on advanced aircraft, including F-15K fighters, T-50 trainer jets and Surion utility helicopters. KAI develops the Surion platform.

“We own 1000s of platforms worldwide with this product, so we’ve got plenty of experiences inside U.S. as well as other countries and also using this IFF item of equipment,” said Rob Peer, president of BAE Systems in Korea. “It’s advanced technology with low weight, low power and price effective. All of those things help it become very effective.”

Peer stressed that they feels BAE Systems’ Mode-5 is the best fit for that systems in the F-35 fighter jet, which South Korea is usually to deploy in the long term.

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