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Spy plane ‘Peace Eye’ to fly in exercises

A U.S.-made advanced surveillance aircraft will take part in live military drills next year for the first time since joining the Air Force here in September, an official said Tuesday.

An Air Force official said the E-737 aircraft by Boeing will join the joint Max Thunder exercises between South Korea and the U.S. The biannual exercises are scheduled for May and October next year.

The airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) was dubbed “Peace Eye” after a naming contest in 2008.

“The participation will be designed to improve Peace Eye’s operability and performance before being deployed for real operations,” the official said. “It will also be a final test for the aircraft that will follow an ongoing evaluation.”

In 2006, South Korea reached a $1.6 billion deal with Boeing to purchase four E-737s. The first Peace Eye arrived in South Korea in August and was delivered to the Air Force in September, with the second arriving in September for further testing. Two more Peace Eye planes will be delivered next year, officials have said.

In May and October of this year, the Max Thunder air training exercises ran for five days and seven days, respectively. Next year, they will be stretched to 12 days and will involve more warplanes than before, officials said.

The latest Max Thunder in October included about 380 South Korean troops, including 130 pilots, and 300 U.S. soldiers, including 50 pilots. About 40 South Korean fighters and 20 U.S. fighters were dispatched for the drill, including F-15K and F-16 fighters and C-130 and CN-235 transport aircrafts.

Typical Max Thunder missions include simulating surprise aerial provocations, staging a joint response and strategic bombings of enemy targets.

The Air Force official said Peace Eye will be tasked with providing fighter jets from both countries with information on ground targets and weather, and also with controlling U.S. planes in flight.

The E-737, equipped with a sophisticated radar system called Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA), can detect and monitor up to 1,000 airborne or surface targets simultaneously, officials said. 

(Yonhap News)
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