SEOUL — European defense clout is expanding in South Korea, which has long been regarded as a second home turf for American weapon systems.
In a sign of growing popularity of European weapons here, Airbus has clinched back-to-back arms acquisition deals for helicopters and in-flight refueling tankers.
In the latest competition for four airborne refueling tankers, Airbus Defense and Space beat US rival Boeing and Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI). Under the $1.2 billion contract, the European aerospace giant is to supply the South Korean Air Force with four Airbus multirole tanker transport (MRTT) aircraft between 2018 and 2019.
“The A330 MRTT showed better performances than its rivals in terms of the duration of flight mission in larger areas and amount of refueling, as well as troop- and cargo-carrying capacity,” said Kim Si-cheol, spokesman for Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
“With the deployment of the refueling tankers, our fighter jets could fly up to Pyongyang in case of an emergency,” Kim said. “It will enhance our combat readiness and facilitate our peacekeeping operations and emergency relief efforts overseas by enabling long-distance mass supplies.”
The European refueling aircraft, based on the Airbus A330-200 passenger jet, also is effective in depot maintenance since lots of countries use the same type of jet, the spokesman said. The A330 MRTT has been selected by a number of governments, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Saudi Arabia, Singapore, France and the United Arab Emirates.