South Korea has gone through with its pledge from earlier in the year to develop an indigenous unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV), selecting Korean Air as the main developer.

Korean Air was selected by the countries Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) to develop a medium-altitude unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) in a deal worth 450bn won by 2016.

Korean air will partner with an as yet unannounced international partner to develop and integrate the spy plane’s fuselage and other related systems, including a ground-control station and mission equipment package.

The proposed UAV will be designed to perform missions as high as 50,000ft for up to 24 hours and will have similar specifications to the MQ-1 Predator medium-altitude, long-endurance UAV built by the US Air Force.

Earlier this year, the Ministry of National Defence hinted that it would push harder for developing an indigenous UAV rather than purchasing the Global Hawk high-flying UAV from the United States.

Senior ministry officials said that was because of budget constraints and also the administration’s pursuit of cost-effective management of defence assets based on closer cooperation with the US military.

South Korea’s air force currently operates eight Baekdu and Geumgang reconnaissance planes, while the army flies the domestically built RQ-101 Night Intruder and Israel’s Searcher II UAVs with its frontline corps near the heavily fortified border with the North.

By Daniel Garrun.