March 03, 2011 09:15
The military will deploy E-737 airborne early warning and control aircraft in July that have a 400 km surveillance range. The aircraft are capable of simultaneously monitoring 1,000 aircraft, track 300 targets and search the skies for low-flying North Korean AN-2 infiltration airplanes.
Boeing unveiled the new planes, dubbed "Peace Eye," and said the first plane will be delivered to South Korea in June, a month earlier than planned.
Seoul will spend W2 trillion (US$1=W1,128) until the end of 2012 to procure four E-737s. The first one will be built in the U.S. and the rest will be fitted with radars and undergo final modification in South Korea.
South Korea will be the third country in the world to operate the E-737 after Australia and Turkey. The E-737 is fitted with Northrop Grumman's Multi-mode Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) radar and an identification friend or foe (IFF) system. It performed flawlessly in several test flights under rainy, snowy and windy conditions. Boeing said that the planes fly at an altitude of between 9 km to 12 km and can detect all low-flying aircraft that infiltrate using mountainous terrain.
Unlike the disc-shaped radar of existing airborne warning and control systems, which rotate once every 12 seconds to transmit and receive radar signals, the MESA radar can freely transmit and receive radar signals in any direction and distance. Under normal conditions, the maximum surveillance range is around 370 km, but focused transmissions of radar signals in one direction could expand the maximum range up to 500 km, making the E-737 capable of monitoring all of North Korea when flying close to the Demilitarized Zone.
The E-737's radar is also capable of monitoring enemy vessels and other maritime targets. Surveillance data can be transmitted to command headquarters and other weapons systems, including F-15K fighter jets. The E-737 is also capable of firing aluminum chaff and flares to evade heat-seeking missile attacks and is fitted with six missile advance warning systems on top of and under the fuselage.
The military will operate the aircraft in three shifts lasting eight hours each. The Peace Eye can fly up to 20 hours after each aerial fueling.
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