South Korea emerges as fastest-growing arms exporter

South Korea emerges as fastest-growing arms exporter

Four FA-50 light combat aircraft flying over urban area / Newsis

Poland set to sign major deal to buy tanks, howitzers, fighter jets

By Jung Min-ho

South Korea has emerged as the fastest growing arms exporter in the world, far outpacing the growth of other major market players in recent years.

South Korea’s arms exports surpassed a record $ 7 billion last year, according to a recent report by the Export-Import Bank of Korea. Exports in 2017-21 increased by 177% from 2012-16. This is by far the highest growth rate among the top 20 exporters, followed by Australia (98%) and France (59%).

South Korea’s share of world arms exports has almost tripled from 1% to 2.8%. It is currently the 8th largest arms exporter in the world and the 2nd largest arms exporter in Asia (after China). It has jumped from 31st place on the 2000 SIPRI Weapons Transfer Database List.

“Exports of naval vessels increased by 1,660 percent (in 2017-21 compared to 2012-16), leading this trend,” the report said. “Weapons exports are estimated to continue to grow. This figure is expected to reach $ 10 billion in 2022.”

The Philippines and Indonesia are the two largest buyers of Korean weapons, They account for 16% and 14% of sales, respectively. The Asian region remains an important market, but it is expanding its global presence with newly developed military hardware.

Cheongung-II medium-range surface-to-air missile system / Courtesy of Defense Acquisition Program Administration

In January, South Korea signed a contract with the United Arab Emirates to export the Cheongung II medium-range surface-to-air missile developed by the Defense Science Institute (ADD) under the largest arms export contract in history.

The following month, South Korean company Hanwha Defense signed a deal worth more than 2 trillion won ($ 1.65 billion) to sell the K9 self-propelled howitzer to Egypt.

Another big business seems to be in Europe. Poland, a NATO member that borders the war-torn Ukraine, will sign a contract with South Korea to buy tanks, howitzers and fighters next week, according to Polish Defense Minister Marius Brasszak.

The K9 self-propelled howitzer / Courtesy of Hanwha Defense

The contract includes 48 FA-50 light attack aircraft developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with Lockheed Martin, 180 K2 Black Panther tanks developed by ADD, and several K9 grenades.

The FA-50 is a variant of the KAI T-50 supersonic trainer. KAI President Ann Hyun-ho told reporters at the Farnborough Airshow in the UK last week that he plans to export 1,000 FA-50s over the next decade, including the United States.

South Korea also aims to sell high-end KF-21 fighters to Southeast Asia and beyond after the prototype jet successfully completes its first test flight on July 19.

The country is pushing to replace the dilapidated fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters with high-end jets and strengthen air power to halt North Korea’s growing military threat.

The report predicts that the market will continue to grow over the next few years, as many countries are allocating more money to defense in response to Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.

“Trade agreements in the defense industry aim to improve diplomatic confidence between the countries concerned and have a positive impact on trade in other sectors,” the report said. “Establishing a unified organization to support exports will help improve efficiency.”


Credit/Source : KoreaTimes

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