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Seoul aerospace fair draws global aerospace giants, defense contractors

ILSAN -- An international aerospace and defense exhibition kicked off here on Tuesday for a six-day run with global aerospace giants and defense contractors participating to showcase their latest weapons systems and technologies.

The Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) underway at the Korea International Exhibition Center (Kintex) in Ilsan, just north of Seoul, brings together 361 exhibitors from 28 countries seeking marketing opportunities for defense contractors and diplomatic venue for military leaders on hand, organizers said.

During the week, 68 senior military officials and major defense firm CEOs from 45 nations are set to discuss ways to expand partnership and boost their defense industries.

This year's biennial exhibition, one of the largest arms shows in Asia, is the ninth installment of its kind after it opened in 1996 under the name of Seoul Air Show.

"The aerospace industry is the key to national security, which sets a ground stone for peace," South Korean Prime Minister Chung Hong-won said in the opening ceremony for Seoul ADEX.

As South Korea plans to buy 60 advanced jets, global aerospace giants, including Lockheed Martin, Boeing and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS), demonstrated their fighter jets and major aircraft during the exhibition.

EADS displayed Eurofighter Typhoon at an outdoor exhibition hall, allowing visitors to get aboard the two-engine fighter jet and wear a "smart helmet" on a simulator.

A team of four German pilots explained the structure and function of the two-engine multirole fighter, which was proposed to Seoul for the fighter acquisition program, the company said.

Boeing showcased 737 Max's Advanced Technology Winglet, AH-64E Apache attack helicopter and KC-46A aerial tanker as well as main commercial airplanes, including 747-8 Intercontinental and 787-9 Dreamliner.

Boeing also featured its F-15 fighter jet model with advanced features through an interactive display and simulator to show combat-proven capabilities and its latest avionic system, the company said.

The F-15 Silent Eagle was proposed to South Korea for the 60 fighter jet program but was voted down due to its relatively weak stealth features.

Lockheed Martin presented its F-35 model and simulator as it is moving closer to selling its stealth jets to South Korea, which seeks to buy 60 fifth-generation jets for its Air Force.

The U.S. aerospace giant displayed various missile defense systems including "hit-to-kill" PAC-3 missile and its advanced variant of PAC-3 as well as Terminal High Altitude Area Defense, or THAAD.

South Korea plans to upgrade its PAC-2 missile with guidance-enhanced one as part of its push to build the indigenous missile defense program while looking at various options to expand its missile shield against North Korea.

Northrop Grumman also attended the exhibition to raise foreign sales opportunity of its RQ-4 Global Hawk as South Korea sets its sight on spy drone conduct intelligence missions on North Korea.

South Korean companies showed off indigenous aircraft, combat vehicles and guns to expand their global outreach in the Asia-Pacific.

Korea Aerospace Industries, South Korea's aircraft maker, presented FA-50, a light attack aircraft modified from T-50 supersonic jet, Korean utility helicopter Surion and tilt-rotor unmanned aerial vehicle.

LIG Nex1 showcased portable surface-to-air missile Chiron, the GPS-guided bomb, anti-ship missile Haesung, as well as other avionic and electronic warfare systems.

This year, India's state arms development agency boasted large presence, bringing two indigenous tactical missiles on mobile launchers to an international show for the first time, as part of efforts to expand its global outreach in the Asia-Pacific region.

On the sidelines of the fair, Air Force chiefs of nine nations on Monday gathered in Seoul for an international symposium to discuss the aerospace and defense industries in accordance with the changing security environment. 

South Korean Air Force chief Sung Il-hwan and Lt. Gen. Jan-Marc Jouas, the 7th Air Force commander and the deputy commander of the U.S. Forces Korea, and industry experts attended the meeting. (Yonhap News)