Air Show Report : Seoul ADEX 2017
Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2017
In October 2017 Simone Marcato visited ADEX, South Korea's major air show and exhibition for the aerospace and defense sector, combined with a showcase of RoKAF and USAF air power. All photos by author.
Seoul Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX)
The Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2017, or Seoul ADEX 2017, was held at Seoul Air Base near the city of Seongnam, south of the Republic of Korea's capital, from 17 October to 22 October.
With the first edition held in 2009, the biennial event is at its fifth edition and, according to the organizers, Seoul ADEX 2017 was the largest thus far, with the participation of 405 companies from 33 countries worldwide and delegation from 89 defense ministers and chief of the staff visited the show.
First four days were reserved for trade with only exhibitors, military delegations and industry professionals, as well as accredited press. The final two days were also open to the public. The organizer estimated that over 250,000 visitors attended the 2017 show.
Seoul ADEX serves to support Korean exports to overseas customers and promote Korea's defense industry. Beyond trade, it has also become the county’s major air show to showcase the RoKAF and the air power alliance with the US to officials, media, and like similar events, to the public on the weekend. The importance of this event was signified during the opening ceremony, with the attendance by the President of the Republic of Korea accompanied by the Minister of Defense along with the Chiefs of Staff and other high ranked officers of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces.
The opening act of the air show was a massive fly-past by five different formations of Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) fighter-bombers: 5x KF-16C/D, 5x KF-5E/F, 5x F-15K, 5x FA-50 and 3x F-15K.
Korean defense industry
Without any doubt, the local defense giant Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has made significant strides since the first ADEX exhibition, growing continuously since 2010 and has now almost doubled with an annual turnover of USD 5.1 billion. Obviously, KAI was again the major player at Seoul ADEX 2017 showing all its state-of-the-art aircraft.
For over a decade now, the T-50 Golden Eagle advanced supersonic training jet, along with its derivatives, is the symbol of the company's aircraft design success. The TA-50 lead-in fighter trainer with light-attack capability and the FA-50 light combat aircraft were again showcased at Seoul ADEX.
Lockheed Martin and KAI teamed up to propose the T-50A version for the USAF T-X competition for a replacement of the T-38 Talon fleet. The T-50A seems to be the most accredited candidate and is expected to win the T-X competition. A mock-up of the T-50A version developed for the T-X program was on display inside KAI's indoors pavilion.
Another KAI product family is the single-engine turboprop KT-1 Woongbi basic trainer along with its further developed KA-1 armed version with light-attack and forward air control capabilities. The KT-1 was the first South Korean-made aircraft developed, and since its introduction into service in 2000 has also become a good export seller.
KAI is also progressing on the rotary front. The KUH-1 Surion multi-role helicopter was on display along with the models of the other versions. It remains to be seen if Korea’s medium-weight helicopter offering will be able to stand up to the strong competition in the various helicopter markets.
More interesting at the KAI pavilion was the presence of some scale models of the future KF-X, South Korea's second fighter development program following the FA-50.
The project was first announced back in 2001 with the aim of producing a 4.5th to 5th generation fighter with more advanced capabilities than the current KF-16s by 2020, without aiming to reach the level of the F-35’s capabilities. Lockheed Martin will be involved in development assistance, offering technical assistance in the design of this advanced stealth twin-engine multi-role fighter. Indonesia agreed to join the program in 2010 with its national company Indonesian Aerospace as primary partner with a 20% minority share. The current schedule plans for roll-out in the second half of 2021 with the first flight in 2022 and introduction into service with the RoKAF and the Tentara Nasional Indonesia-Angkatan Udara (TNI-AU Indonesian Air Force) expected around 2026.
The RoKAF had a strong presence at Seoul ADEX 2017, with 11 different aircraft types and a total of 19 aircraft in the flying and static display. Every combat aircraft type in service was on static display: F-15K Slam Eagle, KF-16C Fighting Falcon, F-4E Phantom II, KF-5E Tiger II, FA-50 Golden Eagle, and KA-1 Woongbi. The RoKAF line-up was completed by transport aircraft, with one CN-235M, one C-130H-30 Hercules, and both trainer types in service, the T-50 Golden Eagle and KT-1 Woongbi.
The Republic of Korea Army (RoK Army) presence consisted of HH-60, CH-47D and the indigenous KUH-1 Surion helicopters, as well as an impressive number of military land-based systems along with a lot of vehicles, most made by Korean manufacturers: K-1 and the new K-2 Black Panther MBTs and their derivatives were lined-up, as well as the K-9 Thunder self-propelled howitzer. Surface-to-air missile (SAM) systems included the Patriot, KM-SAM, Hawk, and Chiron.
The Republic of Korea Navy (RoK Navy) displayed one of its P-3C Orion maritime patrol aircraft.
Besides the Korean defense companies, most of the exhibitors came from the United States, with participation by the major US companies, 150 military personnel at the show and eight different aircraft types on static and in the flying display.
The prominent US presence was led by the USAF, which displayed both of its 5th generation fighters: joining the static display was a pair of F-35A Lighting IIs from Hill AFB on deployment to the region, while two F-22A attended for the Raptor Demo Team’s single-ship demo participation in the flying display. The USAF also sent Korea-deployed A-10C, C-130J-30, E-3B, C-17A and the RQ-4 Global Hawk. The US Navy showcased a P-8A Poseidon, as Boeing is pitching the type as P-3 Orion replacement.
The long US military aircraft static line-up was more than matched by the presence of over 50 American defense companies that are cleared to offer top-shelf defense technology and platforms to Korea's military. The American business presence at the show was spread over 1800 square meters of indoor space of the USA Partnership Pavilion, making the US the leading foreign exhibitor at the show: Lockheed Martin, Boeing, Northrop-Grumman, Raytheon, Honeywell, General Atomics Aeronautical, were just some US companies that exhibited at Seoul ADEX.
The strong military partnership between South Korea and the USA is also reflected in the major re-equipment programs of the Korean Armed Forces, with most of the recent contracts awarded to American companies. Currently the most important program is the renovation of the fighter jet fleet. In March 2014, South Korea selected the F-35A Lightning II to fulfill its F-X III requirement for an advanced multi-role strike fighter to replace the ageing F-4E and KF-5E. The RoKAF is slated to receive its first F-35A in 2018. Meanwhile a major upgrade of the KF-16 avionics and weapons suite is underway. Also, the Global Hawk UAS will be purchased with four aircraft on order.
Other international companies
Many other international defense companies were present, although most only having stands in the indoor exhibition.
Airbus Defence & Space was of course present at Seoul ADEX 2017. Currently Airbus is engaged in the supply of four A330 MRTT (multi role tanker transport) aircraft for the RoKAF, with delivery of the first aircraft scheduled for the second half of 2018.
Besides its pavilion in the indoor exhibition, the European defense giant presented an A400M belonging to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) in the static display for three days.
The Swedish company Saab in its pavilion promoted its Swordfish MPA based on the airframe of the Bombardier Global 6000 executive jet, which is competing with the Boeing P-8A for a batch of MPA for the RoK Navy.
The Italian company Leonardo was also present at ADEX 2017. Leonardo's partnership with South Korea is strong, with the company having provided advanced electronic equipment for decades for both civil and military forces. Leonardo is best known in South Korea as rebranded Agusta-Westland company and provider of the AW159 ASW helicopter. Now it is competing with Lockheed Martin to supply another batch of ASW helicopters for the RoK Navy.
Other major defense companies also had stands in the indoor exhibition area, such BAE Systems, India's DRSO, Turkish Roketsan and TAI, Rafael, Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI), and the military subsidiaries of other major manufacturers.
Air Show Displays
ADEX is also a unique opportunity to see and photograph RoKAF aircraft, without risking trouble with the military or civil authorities.
The display schedule changed a little every day except for some fixtures; the Black Eagles performed their display every day as well as the KT-1 and T-50, to show off these KAI products to any potential customer representatives. The navalized Surion variant MUH-1 Marineon performed only twice for the entire Seoul ADEX duration.
The USAF showed the maneuverability of the air dominance fighter F-22A almost every day, as well as the C-17A. Another highlight was the CSAR demonstration, which involved both RoKAF and USAF, proving that the cooperation between the two air forces is stronger than ever. Two USAF A-10Cs from Osan AB joined a pair of FA-50 and a single KA-1 in a simulated attack on the enemy defenses, opening a path for a couple of Korean UH-60M on a CSAR mission.
On Saturday only, a B-1B Lancer escorted by a pair of RoKAFs F-15Ks and a single U-2S Dragon Lady performed a couple of fly-overs.
The high workload of the local units at Seongnam was evident with a lot of flying activity during ADEX by the C-130s, CN-235s, Hs-748, B-737, CH-47s, UH-60s and the Hawker RC-800 reconnaissance and SIGINT aircraft. Perhaps not unrelated to the presence of so many dignitaries, high ranked officials, and high profile assets at the event.
RoKAF's aerobatic display team the Black Eagles, flying the T-50B aerobatic version of the Golden Eagle, performed the 35-minute display once or twice per day, showing their very impressive acrobatic skills, helped by their relatively powerful aircraft. The Black Eagles had the honor to close the Seoul ADEX 2017 with a final demo performed in a beautiful sunset light.
Report and photos by Simone Marcato ( view portfolio )
Last Modified: 23 March 2018