South Korea eyes upgrading Israel defense deals in light of tensions with North
South Korea's defense procurement from Israel has significantly increased in recent years.
South Korea has expressed interest in substantially expanding defense-related deals with Israel and is interested in procuring advanced weapons systems and technology, in view of its deteriorating relations with North Korea.
There is growing concern in Seoul following what it calls intense aggression by Pyongyang in a number of border incidents. The South Korean government recently decided to increase its annual defense budget by 25 percent. South Korea would like to buy from Israel mostly drones, missiles, radar and possibly also missile defense systems.
The last three years have seen a significant increase in South Korea's defense procurement from Israel. Currently, trade between the two countries stands at $1.25 billion annually, two-thirds of which is Korean exports to Israel, and the remainder is mostly Israeli defense exports to South Korea.
Two deals for radar systems
Last October, Israel Aerospace Industries signed two huge deals for radar systems with Korea. Both radar types are produced by Elta. One of the systems is used to identify the launch of missiles and the other is installed in fighter aircraft as part of the upgrading of South Korea's fleet of fighter jets.
Negotiations are underway over the possibility that the Israel Air Force will buy a South Korean trainer jet, the T-50.
An Italian-made jet trainer is the other contestant in the bid. The IAF is expected to buy one of the two planes in the coming months to replace the aging Skyhawk fleet used for jet training
Air force pilots have visited South Korea and test flown its trainer jet as part of the evaluation process.