Korea is keen to enter the international race to build war drones or unmanned aerial vehicles. UAVs are either remote-controlled or self-steered and have made headlines when the U.S. used them to attack suspected terrorists in Afghanistan and Pakistan.
There are estimates that UAVs will account for about half of the fighter aircraft around the world by 2030 or so.
Korea is developing a UAV that can take off and land vertically, according to Defense Acquisition Program Administration chief Noh Dae-rae, and is one of a few countries to develop tilt-rotor type UAVs.
The tilt-rotor UAV takes off and lands like a helicopter but flies at high speed like turboprop aircraft. The Korea Aerospace Research Institute is in charge of the project, which began in 2002. A prototype is 5 m long, weighs 1 ton maximum and can fly at 500 km/h.
Noh claimed Korea is the 10th country in the world to develop and operate a UAV and called for "bold investment" in developing drones based on homegrown IT fusion technology.
IT fusion technology, especially for data transmission, is important for UAVs as they are controlled from hundreds of kilometers away. As an IT powerhouse, Korea may have a head-start in the field.
The Songgolmae (peregrine falcon) was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries and deployed combat-ready in 2002. It can fly up to 200 km and send data on enemy movements in real time.
The U.S., Israel, France, the U.K., Canada, and Germany have also built their own drones.
Several Korean UAVs were on show at the Seoul Aerospace and Defense Exhibition, which opened at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, Gyeonggi Province on Tuesday.
One Korean unmanned fighter jet exhibited is set to fly at maximum speed of 1,184 km/h with an operational radius of 290 km. Korea Aerospace Industries plans to collaborate with the Agency for Defense Development and Korean Air to develop such fighter jets after 2025.
KAI is also developing an unmanned attack aircraft with Hanyang University and Konkuk University that can carry bombs and attack North Korean artillery or coastal batteries hidden behind mountains.