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South Korean military to deploy VTOL UAVs for coastal surveillance and reconnaissance

KAI is aiming to pitch its Night Intruder 600 VT UAV to meet a potential RoKA requirement for VTOL UAVs. (KAI)

The Republic of Korea Army (RoKA) and Marine Corps (RoKMC) will deploy locally sourced vertical take-off and landing (VTOL) unmanned aerial vehicles (UAVs) on coastal reconnaissance and surveillance missions from 2022.

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 16 September that the UAVs – a limited number of which were procured in July 2020 through a fast-track acquisition process and underwent a six month-long test and evaluation period from December – have been deemed of military utility.

During the field trials the RoKA and RoKMC evaluated the advantages of using such UAVs for day/night surveillance and reconnaissance operations, particularly to overcome blind spots along the country's coastal areas.

The agency said that a decision to formally deploy these VTOL UAVs was made during a 30 July meeting of South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff, marking the first time that a programme initiated under the fast-track acquisition process moves to the military deployment phase.

The fast-track acquisition process, which was introduced for defence-related procurements in 2020, is now being implemented in 26 military acquisition projects.

The agency noted that it will draft a detailed purchase plan for these reconnaissance VTOL UAVs by the end of the year, with the aim of signing a contract within the first half of 2022 following a public bidding process.

This comes after South Korea's Defence Project Promotion Committee approved a draft strategy in late June for the development between 2022 and 2033 of a new type of VTOL UAV for KRW1.28 trillion (USD1.09 billion) for use in surveillance and reconnaissance missions.

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