Monday, March 14, 2011
Defense Ministry looking to boost ties with South Korea
Ministry in talks with Seoul about Iron Dome; Rafael, S. Korean companies considering establishment of joint ventures.
The Defense Ministry is tightening its ties with South Korea as it searches for new military alliances around the world in the face of the economic meltdown and growing political isolation.
Several defense industries have begun solidifying their presence in Seoul with Rafael opening a new marketing office recently in Bangkok to service South Korea as well as Vietnam. Rafael is also in talks with two South Korean companies about possible establishment of joint ventures.
“South Korea is extremely interested in Israeli products particularly due to the growing tension with North Korea,” a senior defense official said. “For us, it is beneficial since we are facing a drop in defense sales due to the recession and the upcoming US withdrawal from Iraq and Afghanistan.”
In recent months, a number of Israeli and South Korean delegations have visited each other’s country to discuss potential deals and to inspect new platforms.
In December, the South Korean military issued an urgent operational requirement to Rafael for guided anti-tank missile systems called Spike NLOS after the North Korean artillery attack on Yeonpyeong Island in November.
The Spike NLOS is one of the most sophisticated antitank weapons in the world and has a range of 25 kilometers and can engage targets during the day or at night and in adverse weather conditions.
In addition to Spike, the South Korean military is also in talks with the Defense Ministry about the Iron Dome, the short-range rocket defense system which was recently declared operational by the Israeli Air Force.
One official estimated that sales to South Korea could reach about $500 million a year.
The increase in sales to South Korea, though, will depend on the IAF’s upcoming decision on the identity of the new advanced fighter trainer it is looking to purchase.
The two candidates are Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50 Golden Eagle or Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi M- 346 Master.
In 2009, Israel was the fourth largest exporter of weaponry and military platforms in the world behind the United States, Russia and France with defense exports that reached $7.5 billion. While new contracts signed in 2010 have yet to be accounted for, estimates within the Israeli defense establishment are that the number will be slightly lower than the previous year.