Tuesday, July 28, 2009

South Korea and Lockheed team up to build and export Aegis warships


Aegis, one of the most advanced naval defence systems, is designed to simultaneously track and destroy a multiple number of incoming missiles.

US defence group Lockheed Martin and South Korea's Hyundai Heavy Industries will team up to build and export mid-size warships equipped with advanced Aegis weapons systems, an official said Wednesday. They signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) in May 2006 to jointly produce Aegis-equipped guided missile ships, Hyundai Heavy spokesman Cho Woo-Tae told. Cho said it is thought to be very rare for Lockheed to partner with a foreign company to produce Aegis-equipped vessels for possible sale to a third country. Aegis, one of the most advanced naval defence systems, is designed to simultaneously track and destroy a multiple number of incoming missiles. Asked why the agreement was not made public for three years, the spokesman said Hyundai Heavy rarely discloses MoUs. "I believe Lockheed decided to disclose it to the media probably because there is some progress in looking for buyers."

Hyundai Heavy is the world's biggest shipbuilder. "The idea is that the partnership would make it possible to build high profit-margin warships at a reasonable price," said Cho. Concrete terms need to be fixed but the two firms could produce 4,000 to 6,000-ton ships under the joint project, Cho said. He added the vessels could be sold to third countries such as India but no firm decisions had been made given the sensitivity of the technology. South Korea's navy in May 2007 launched its first Aegis-equipped warship, the 7,600-ton Sejong the Great, jointly built by Hyundai and Lockheed. It was used to track North Korea's long-range rocket launch in April, along with US Aegis ships. South Korea plans to launch a second Aegis destroyer in 2010 and a third in 2012, in an attempt to keep up with the naval powers of Japan and China.

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