Sunday, December 6, 2009

INTERVIEW: Yeo-Sung Lee Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Hyundai Rotem

Defense News



Executive Vice Chairman and CEO, Hyundai Rotem

By Wendell Minnick, Seoul Airshow 2009

Despite the worldwide economic downturn, South Korea's Hyundai Rotem keeps making money and expanding further into the international defense export market. Rotem is producing an impressive array of military equipment, including the K1AI and K2 Black Panther main battle tanks, wheeled armored personnel carriers and integrated logistics systems. It recently sealed a deal to assist Turkey in the development of a main battle tank and is in discussions with countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia for military vehicles and systems.

Since Yeo-Sung Lee became CEO in 2007, Hyundai Rotem has seen dramatic revenue increases and has expanded its investment in research and development. Lee's sales-first operational philosophy comes from a strong background in exports and overseas sales. He joined Hyundai Mobis as executive vice president for exports in 1996, and then became senior executive vice president of the overseas sales department in 2002 before joining Rotem in 2004 as senior executive vice president of Rotem Total Railway Systems. Since his appointment as Rotem's executive vice chairman and CEO, the company has increased revenue sales by 60 percent and profits by 86 percent, and received new orders worth $30 billion.


A. We first started off with railcar manufacturing in 1964 and then went into the defense business in 1976. We have grown into a global leader that represents South Korea in this industry. We are also the leading defense system provider in South Korea.

We have developed the K2 main battle tank [MBT], which is a world-class main battle tank. We have succeeded in exporting the technology of the K2 MBT to support the Turkish MBT project. Our main products include K2 MBT, K1A1 MBT, K1 Armored Recovery Vehicle, K1 Apparatus Vehicle, wheeled armored vehicles, simulators and a new unmanned firefighting robot.


A. In the case of defense, the government will not stop spending, so our growth is going up. The defense industry is a national industry, which is supported by the government. The government seeks economic growth during these difficult economic times by designating long-term national projects. So times like these can actually be an opportunity for us to seek growth. We are expanding our production facilities abroad and investing more in research and development. We are also seeking to target the overseas market more aggressively.


A. In 2008, our revenue sales reached $2.2 billion, and despite the global economic downturn, we expect our revenue sales to increase 12 percent - [to] $2.7 billion - in 2009. Growth is about 21 percent over 2008.


A. The percentage of defense revenue would be 20 percent at $500 million. We are quite a fast-growing company in terms of revenue and profit.


A. Some predict that the demand for main battle tanks might decrease as wars become localized and the demand for air and naval weapons increase. However, we still think that the main battle tank market is a $3 billion market. There are still many countries seeking to purchase new main battle tanks. Many countries are showing interest in our latest K2 MBT.

Hyundai Rotem succeeded in exporting the K2 MBT technology to Turkey despite competition from other main battle tank builders such as Germany, France and the U.S., which clearly indicates that Hyundai Rotem's defense technology is the world's best. We expect that this will lead to more export opportunities. We have been talking to countries in Latin America, the Middle East and Southeast Asia. Also Hyundai Rotem is developing wheeled armored vehicles. As we face competition from European and American companies, as well as China, we are seeking various ways to export our technology to the overseas market.


A. As a private company, it is difficult for us to make a statement about the overall Korean defense market. However, it is estimated to be about $10 billion. It is not really growing and is basically flat. The government leads most projects as a national project, and private companies participate in the research and development and production.

In the Korean defense market, we predict a high demand in precision targeting, information technology and unmanned robotic technology. Hyundai Rotem is developing unmanned ground vehicles in advance to meet these requirements. We are also developing hybrid power systems as an environmentally friendly green growth project.


A. The defense industry grows under the government's policy to strengthen defense. The South Korean defense market is relatively small. The government works with private companies to develop new defense technology and seeks ways to export the technology as well.

Also, technologies developed for military use, such as information technology and unmanned robot technology, is being applied to commercial products. South Korea has the capacity to produce state-of-the-art defense systems with high quality and advanced technology at low cost. With the development of information technology in Korea, it has become easier to develop useful systems for the defense industry.

However, we still have some areas in which we rely on foreign technologies to develop core devices. The South Korean defense industry is changing from heavy weapons to electronic and automated systems, from heavy to light, from land warfare to air and sea warfare. The defense industry needs to be more localized for components and parts. We import a lot of components and parts. As South Korea's defense industry grows, the parts and components industry should grow along with it.


A. In the defense division, we expect to expand our product lines from our current ground weapon systems to air and naval weapon systems. We will also apply defense technologies for nonmilitary projects. We plan to develop combat systems for the future environments, such as light robotic weapons, integrated sensor systems and special robots for military and civil purposes.

We aim to grow into a global company of the Hyundai Motor Group by creating a platform for sustainable growth. In defense, our revenue is expected to increase to $1.5 billion by 2015. We have a broad 10-year plan that by 2018 defense will be over $2 billion. The overall company revenue will be $4 billion by 2015, and [by] 2018, it will be $5 billion. We have a very healthy order backlog. I hope that within 10 years, Hyundai Rotem makes it to the list of top 20 defense companies in the world.


A. Research and development investment of Hyundai Rotem has been increased remarkably. We are, on average, now spending 5 percent of our revenue on research and development. In 2007, we spent about $90 million, and in 2008, we spent $108 million, and are now spending $131 million in 2009. When sales revenue goes up, then research and development goes up.

Research and development manpower is increasing also. In 2006, we had 590 engineers in research and development, but in 2009, we have 674.

We will continuously focus on research and development activities by investing an average of 5 percent of our revenue into it and by increasing the number of engineers. Especially for the last couple of years, the total amount of money invested on research and development has jumped by approximately 45 percent. The main research field of the defense division is about military applications, such as the main battle tank, wheeled armored vehicle and quadruped walking robot. Related to main battle tanks, active protection systems are also being developed. Also, unmanned weapon systems are one of our main developments. Our firefighting robot has been successfully developed and tested recently, and we are developing multipurpose unmanned robots for both military and commercial use.


A. When I was first named CEO of Hyundai Rotem in 2007, we were facing many difficulties internally with the shortage of capability and also in the market environment. To survive the risks, we focused on targeting the overseas market and formed strategic divisions to solve problems. As a result of fast decision-making, communication within the company and teamwork, we have achieved a 60 percent increase in revenue sales, 86 percent increase in profits and new orders worth $50 billion. I'm very proud of the company's revenue increase under my leadership. I put the top priority on sales. If sales are good, then everything follows. This is my operational philosophy. ■


■ Revenue: $2.2 billion in 2008, $2.7 billion projected for 2009

■ Headquarters: Seoul

■ Employees: 3,993

■ Sectors: Defense Systems, whose products include main battle tanks, wheeled armored vehicles and robots; Railway Systems; and Plant & Machinery

Source: Defense News research

Friday, November 27, 2009

China Leaps Into Global Aircraft Market; Targets Russia’s Traditional Customer Base

Defense News


China Leaps Into Global Aircraft Market; Targets Russia’s Traditional Customer Base


DUBAI — China’s push into the defense aviation market intensified at the 11th Dubai Air Show with an aggressive export marketing campaign for the new supersonic Hongdu L-15 Falcon advanced jet trainer.

The effort followed the announced sale of 36 new C

hengdu J-10 (FC-20) Vigorous Dragon fighter jets to Pakistan for $1.4 billion the previous week.

Past Chinese arms export efforts have always been politically sensitive. Chinese arms deals with Iran, Myanmar, Sudan and Zimbabwe reflected the same list of pariah states sanctioned for human rights violations.

At the Dubai show, China’s state-owned Aviation Industry Corp. (AVIC) appeared interested in moving beyond “pariah” and pulled out all the stops with its first news conference and flight demonstrations of its new L-15 outside China. The Nov. 16 conference was slick and sophisticated, a clear departure from previous awkward, or nonexistent, media efforts. The attempt was unprecedented for the Chinese defense industry.

AVIC officials speaking at the press conference included Wang Yawei, president of AVIC Defense; and the L-15’s chief architect, Zhang Hong, vice general manager of Hongdu Aviation Industry Group, an AVIC subsidiary.

Wang said AVIC had made sig­nificant strides in research and development of new aircraft and was anxious to explore the export market.

“The attendance of the L-15 is aimed at exploiting the international market,” he said. “There is a high demand of trainers of this type in the international market.” Wang declined to identify specific countries interested in the aircraft, but said discussions were ongoing with several potential customers.

The L-15 will face tough competition from other trainer jets, including Italy’s M­346, built by Alenia Aermacchi; Korea Aerospace Industries’ T-50; and Russia’s Yak-130, built by Yakovlev.

However, AVIC appears confident it can challenge these aircraft on the international market. “The L-15 is a new-generation 
advanced trainer that provides solutions for pilot training,” Zhang said. Missions include advanced, lead-in and companion training, and close-air support. The aircraft also will come in a lead-in fighter trainer variant.

The aircraft is “characterized by a modern aerodynamic configuration” and equipped with twin turbofan engines, a fly-by-wire system and a glass cockpit.

The Falcon is powered by two Ukrainian­built Ivchenko Progress AI-222K-25F jet engines with a performance speed of Mach 1.4, a service ceiling of 16,000 meters and a range of 3,100 kilometers. AVIC officials said they were working on a Chinese variant that would eventually replace the Ukrainian engine.

“The L-15 is a cost-effective replacement for old advanced jet trainers,” Zhang said. The aircraft is “capable of armed reconnaissance, defensive counter-air, close-air support and anti-terrorism” missions.

China appears to be directly challenging Russia for the export military aircraft market. A government official at the booth for Rosoboronexport, Russia’s state arms export agency, expressed frustration with the Chinese exhibition here.

“Everyone in the defense industry should be concerned about the Chinese push into the market,” he said. “They stole our Su-27 [J-11B], and now they want to export aircraft that are cheap copies of Russian aircraft.” It is clear the L-15 is a copy of the new Yak-130 advanced trainer, the Russian official said. Now, both will be competing for the international trainer market and are virtually identical, raising questions about claims made by Zhang, L-15’s chief architect, that the L-15 is an “original Chinese design.” But AVIC has yet to address intellectual property rights conflicts, and that could make many Chinese companies “gun-shy” on exporting what is clearly a Russian or European copy, said Larry Wortzel, vice chairman of the U.S.-China Economic and Security Review Commission in Washington.

The change in Chinese attitudes toward media and public relations efforts demonstrated here are partly driven by the reintegration of AVIC I and AVIC II into one entity in 2008, as the company pushes to expand export opportunities and streamline itself.

“The State Council devoted a great deal of effort to reshaping AVIC and revitalizing the company,” Wortzel said. “Clearly, as China has done in the automobile industry, they want to move into a competitive posture in the aviation industry,” such as military aircraft, training aircraft and systems, and civil aircraft. “This is a long-term effort,” he added.

AVIC originally was a single consortium of aerospace companies. But in 1999, the cor­poration was split, retaining its original title, in an attempt to modernize its manufacturing facilities and competitiveness.

AVIC I centered on complex fixed-wing aircraft such as fighters and bombers, and AVIC II on smaller fixed-wing aircraft and helicopters. The effort resulted in difficulties, and AVIC I/II merged back together last year.

“Under the reorganization of AVIC, I believe we can produce the next generation of aircraft in shorter time and with more capabilities,” Wang said. AVIC also has benefited from China’s booming economy and has expanded research and development into new aircraft and systems, he said.

AVIC’s modernization and export efforts will take time.

“As the companies that do assembly in China learned, there are still quality-control problems to address,” Wortzel said. “And even in co-production programs, which ultimately led to the Chinese-produced mid­capacity jet, there are problems like this.”

Despite the obvious copycat tendency of the Chinese defense industry, it is expected to begin making some inroads into the export market. China and Pakistan jointly produce and market the K-8 (JL-8) basic/advanced jet trainer, which also appeared at the Dubai Air Show. The K-8 has been exported to 12 countries in Africa, South America and Southeast Asia.

With the L-15, China over the next decade “may be able to pick off the lower end of the market in poorer countries” where Russia has a traditional foothold, Wortzel said.

AVIC officials manning the booth said there were discussions on bringing the L-15 to the Singapore Air Show in February and the Paris Air Show in 2011.

The AVIC booth exhibited an L-15 flight simulator and models of aircraft and weapon systems, including the L-15, the FC­1 (JF-17) multirole fighter, the FTC-2000 supersonic advanced trainer and the ASN-209 UAV.

The multirole ASN-209 is a medium-altitude, medium-endurance UAV that can be outfitted with a synthetic aperture radar, a ground moving-target indication sensor, a communications relay system and an electronic warfare system.

Models of weapon systems for aircraft in­cluded the winged 500-kilogram LS-6 Thunder Stone standoff strike weapon and the SD­10A (PL-12) medium-range air-to-air missile.

With a wingspan of about 9 feet, the Thunder Stone can be mounted on a 440­kilogram bomb. From a launch altitude of 800 meters, the system can glide 48 kilometers, and from 11,000 meters it can glide 60 kilometers. The system finished final testing in October 2005 and was first displayed at the 2006 Zhuhai Air Show.

The SD-10A is a fourth-generation missile similar in configuration to the Raytheon AIM-120 AMRAAM. The 199-kilogram SD­10A has an operational altitude of 21 kilometers with a range of 70 kilometers at Mach 5.

Saab wins interim AEW deal, but competition continues

Defense News



Dubai Airshow 2009

Saab wins interim AEW deal, but competition continues

By Andrew Chuter and Wendell Minnick

Dubai – Saab may have won a deal with the UAE to supply an interim airborne early warning and control aircraft, but the main event, a battle between Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Saab to provide a long-term solution, continues.

The Swedish supplier stole an advantage over its rivals when the UAE announced today it was acquiring two Saab 340 turboprops equipped with the Erieye radar to allow the air force to train and gain operational experience of AEW.

The Saab 340’s big brother, the Saab 2000 Erieye active phased array system, is one of three competitors in the long-running AEW&C competition in the UAE.

Boeing is offering the 737 equipped with Northrop Grumman’s new Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA) system.

Northrop is also pushing the new E-2D Advanced Hawkeye now being flight-tested by the U.S. Navy.

Maj. Gen. Faris Al Mazrouei, the UAE Army logistics chief who announced the deal, made it clear though that in his opinion, neither the Boeing nor the Northrop offerings were at a stage where a decision could be reached on a winning platform.

Boeing had suffered technical deliveries on the 737 MESA platform it was delivering to Australia, while Northrop’s E-2D machine had yet to be fielded by the U.S. Navy, he said.

The first of the Australian platforms, known as the Wedgetail, are about to be delivered after a long delay.

The Saab 340 deal will see both aircraft delivered in little more than a year.

James Culmo, Northrop’s vice president and program officer for the AEW program, said the company was also in discussions with India for the E-2Ds.

“The UAE decision is expected in 2010 for four aircraft with an option for a fifth,” said John Beaulieu, U.S. Navy, business development manager for the E-2/C-2 program.

E-2C on Display at Dubai

The E-2D offers radar modes including air and sea surface capability. Radar modes include airborne early warning, surveillance, enhanced sector scanning and enhanced tracking capability.

The Hawkeye platform also has the capability to deal with the increasing threat posed by cruise missiles.

Northrop Grumman also sees a large market for its new MESA airborne early warning and control (AEW&C) aircraft, said John Johnson, vice president and general manager, Northrop Grumman’s Aerospace Systems Division.

MESA would meet UAE needs for a complete airborne early warning and control solution. “The UAE would be an ideal candidate for the system,” Johnson said.

MESA meets regional C2ISR challenges and answers demanding airborne and ground Moving Target Indicator (MTI), Indications and Warning (I&W), and maritime surveillance requirements.

The radar uses a multirole electronically scanned dorsal antenna that radiates left and right 60 degrees and back and front 30 degrees. “You can track over a hundred targets,” said Northrop’s Paul “Buzz” Kalafos, vice resident, International Infrastructure Systems, Electronic Systems.

“Mechanical radars have more breakdowns,” he said. MESA is the next generation of airborne radars that will eventually replace mechanical round airborne radars.

With a range of 300 nautical miles and a line of sight at 40,000 feet altitude, MESA has multiple surveillance modes that include an airborne mode that covers cruise missiles, fighters, helicopters; maritime mode for fast patrol boats and large vessels like frigates; dedicated track beam mode; and Indications Friend or Foe (IFF) mode.

The radar can also project further into a threat sector while maintaining 360-degree coverage.

According to Northrop’s PowerPoint presentation, MESA coverage from UAE airspace covers most of southern Iran.

The system “provides for gap filler capabilities for lack of coverage or loss of forward EW radars,” Johnson said. MESA can work with Global Hawk unmanned aerial vehicles and fire control radars.

Australia is set to receive two aircraft next week, and the program with Turkey for four systems is now moving forward after overcoming earlier problems.

The Turkish air force ordered four systems under the Peace Eagle program under a deal with local Turkish aerospace companies for parts production, assembly and aircraft modification.

In November 2006, South Korea ordered four systems in a $1.6 contract with Boeing and Northrop. They are set for delivery in 2012.

Saab has sold the Erieye to Brazil, Greece, Pakistan, Sweden and Thailand. The customers have used Saab turboprop or Embraer jet platforms.

Northrop has sold hundreds of Hawkeye E-2 variants to numerous customers including the U.S. Navy, France, Japan and Egypt.

Pakistan Shows Off K-8 Trainer for Export

Defense News



Dubai Airshow 2009

Pakistan Shows Off K-8 Trainer for Export

By Wendell Minnick

Dubai – Pakistan Aeronautical Complex (PAC) showed off its K-8 Karakorum two-seat intermediate jet trainer and light attack aircraft at the Dubai Air Show along with models of its newest fighter, the JF-17 Thunder, which is under production.

PAC hopes to expand exports of the K-8 in the region, said Air Marshal Farhat Hussain Khan, PAC chairman. The aircraft are already serving in the Egyptian Air Force and the K-8 is a cost-effective trainer solution. “We do joint sales and marketing with our Chinese partners.”

The K-8 is a joint Chinese Aviation Industry Corporation (AVIC) and PAC program, as is the JF-17, he said. The Chinese variant of the trainer is the JL-8 and the fighter is the FC-1.

He confirmed reports that Pakistan will procure the Chinese-built Chengdu FC-20 fighter, an export version of the J-10 fighter. However, PAC will not participate in the co-production of the FC-20 program, Farhat Hussain said.

PAC began series production of the JF-17 this year and expects to roll out its first aircraft by the end of this month.

“We have an initial order from the Pakistan Air Force for 150, but we expect it to go to upwards of 250 JF-17s,” he said. After that, PAC hopes to begin exporting the fighter.

The JF-17 is a multi-role combat supersonic fighter equipped with both a beyond-visual-range and within-visual-range dog fighting capability. Besides supersonic, it has sub-transonic maneuverability.

It is equipped with a state-of-the-art digital glass cockpit with three large, full-color Multi-Function Displays (MFD), digital moving map, Helmet Mounted Display, hands-on approach and a wide angle Smart Heads-Up Display (SHUD).

The primary sensor of the target acquisition and weapon aiming system is the multi-mode pulse Doppler radar. It also offers look-down performance and electronic counter-counter measures capability.

Despite media reports the JF-17 has suffered setbacks trying to resolve the acquisition of an engine for the aircraft the Russian-built RD-93 engines have been outfitted on the aircraft without problems, Farhat Hussain said. “The media created the issue, it was not true.”

PAC has no plans to develop an indigenous engine or avionics system for the aircraft at this time, he said. “We have no desire of becoming engine producers,” he said.

The aircraft has a maximum speed of 1.6 mach with a service ceiling of 16,700 meters and a ferry range with drop tanks of 3,000 kilometers. The weapons systems are a mix of Chinese and Pakistani systems.

Boeing Reaches Milestone on NC3S Project Vigilare

Defense News



Dubai Airshow 2009

Boeing Reaches Milestone on NC3S Project Vigilare

By Wendell Minnick

Dubai – Boeing announced Nov. 17 that Project Vigilare, a Network Centric Command and Control System (NC3S) solution in Australia, had completed two major milestones. The first is a data transmission with a Royal Australian Air Force (RAAF) F/A-18 Hornet using Link 16 technology, and the second is the development

of its record and replay feature.

“These key capabilities will deliver significant benefits to the Australian Defense Force,” said Rod Drury, Boeing Defense Australia (BDA), vice president of Strategy and Business Development. “Our NC3S product line, of which the Australian solution is provided under Project Vigilare, continues to strengthen Boeing’s position as a global developer of advanced defense technology.”

Boeing is in discussions with South Korea on the NC3S and recently met with government officials at the Seoul Airshow, Drury said.

Besides Australia, Malaysia also has NC3S program set up at Headquarters Integrated Area Defense System, which “supports Five Power Defense Arrangements joint operations,” he said. “It was delivered in June 2004 at Royal Malaysian Air Force Base Butterworth.”

“Vigilare provides Australian Defense Force with enhanced surveillance and battle-space management capability.” It is being “progressively developed to the RAAF from 2009-2010,” he said.

The Vigilare’s Link 16 capability will allow the RAAF to securely transfer and receive critical tactical data to and from RAAF platforms, such as the Boeing 737 Wedgetail AEW&C aircraft.

The Wedgetail is equipped with Northrop Grumman’s new Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array (MESA). The first two aircraft are set for delivery to Australia next week. Australia has on order six Wedgetail aircraft.

Boeing will conduct a follow-on NC3S capability demonstration for Australia in early 2010, in which a Wedgetail will transmit data using Link 16 to the Vigilare system at the Northern Regional Operations Center (NorthROC).

The record and replay capability will improve operator training and mission planning by allowing console operators to replay real and simulated scenarios to multiple operator consoles simulators simultaneously, separately or concurrently with an active NC3S system.

The feature operates in two modes: role replication or video replay, in which the operator can replay missions, and interactive replay, in which the operator can interact with the replay and manipulate the replayed data and voice set to explore different outcomes.

Russia-China Aluminum Deal Raises Eyebrows

Defense News


Russia-China Aluminum Deal Raises Eyebrows


TAIPEI — An aluminum deal between China and Russia is raising questions after China North Industries Corp. (NORINCO), one of China’s biggest defense companies, announced plans to import 1.68 million tons of aluminum from Russian-based United Company (UC) RUSAL from 2010 to 2016.

NORINCO subsidiary Shenzhen North Investment (SZNORTH) signed a long-term electrolytic aluminum supply contract with UC RUSAL on Oct. 28 in Beijing. NOR­INCO President Zhao Gang, UC RUSAL CEO Oleg Deripaska and Zhang Zhenyu, vice director of Evaluation Bureau II for the China Development Bank, attended the contract-signing ceremony.

“The signing of the contract will help consolidate the rapidly developing economic and trade relations between China and Russia and play an important role in stabilizing SZNORTH’s upstream supply channels in the future,” a NORINCO news release said.

NORINCO is one of China’s key weapon manufacturers, producing everything from main battle tanks to small arms. UC RUSAL is the world’s largest aluminum and alumina producer in the world, accounting for 11 percent of the aluminum and 13 percent of the alumina for the international market. Observers are questioning NORINCO’s need for Russian aluminum, since China already produces the metal and exports its excess. The reasons appear to be both economic and strategic.

UC RUSAL has been experiencing serious financial problems, with $16.8 billion in foreign currency debt, and the Siberian plant’s proximity to China makes transportation cheap, said Vasily Kashin, a Moscow-based defense specialist.

The company “desperately needs big long­term deals, such as this NORINCO contract,” he said. “The financial details of the deal are not known, but it’s possible that NORINCO, knowing well about RUSAL’s difficulties, managed to get a much better price than it could get on the Chinese internal market.” China is providing the financing for the deal. In a NORINCO news release, Deripaska expressed gratitude to NORINCO for its initiative to operate the financing project of UC RUSAL and China Development Bank. He said that UC RUSAL is in the final procedures for getting listed in Hong Kong.

“There’s obviously something very funny going on about the deal,” said a U.S. defense analyst who spoke on condition of anonymity. “There is no rationale for the Chinese to buy aluminum; 90 percent of the making of aluminum is in energy costs, so the Chinese are saving costs in energy.” UC RUSAL has not shied away from investing in and dealing with China. In 2006, the company purchased a cathode plant in Shanxi, in northeastern China, that produces cathode blocks used as components in the production of aluminum. UC RUSAL says its Chinese plant provides a guaranteed supply of cathode blocks for its production facilities in Russia. The China plant supplies UC RUSAL smelters to provide 50 percent of the 30,000 tons needed a3nnually.

China has been keen to diversify its access to strategic metals and raw materials, and the defense industry has played a leading role in this effort, said Tai Ming Cheung, author of the book, “Fortifying China: The Struggle to Build a Modern Defense Economy.”

“China is one of the leading aluminum producers in the world, but is also a major consumer, and acquiring stable foreign sources is important in these efforts,” he said. “NORINCO has been active in signing agreements for extractive resources in Central Asia and other parts of the world, so this move to secure long-term foreign aluminum supplies fits in with this strategy.” Procuring such large amounts of aluminum is not intended just to supply the defense sector, “but will allow NORINCO to sell it in the domestic market,” he said.

Interview - Hyo-Koo Lee, President LIG Nex1

Defense News


By Wendell Minnick, Seoul


President and COO, LIG Nex1

LIG Nex1 develops and produces a wide range of advanced precision electronic systems, including missile, underwater weapon, radar, electronic warfare, avionics, tactical communication, fire control, naval combat and electro-optic systems. As well as developing new weapons for South Korea’s military, the company is rapidly expanding into the export market.

Leading that effort since 2007 is Hyo-Koo Lee, the company’s president and chief operating officer (COO). Lee said that over the next ten years he wants LIG Nex1 to become a “global top-tier company, as we announced as our company goal during our Vision 2020 ceremony. In order to reach such a goal, I believe that LIG Nex1 must find the answer in increasing exports.”

Q. Tell us about your company.

A. LIG Nex1 works in close cooperation with not only the [South] Korean military but also the Defense Acquisition Program Administration [DAPA] and the Agency for Defense Development [ADD] to spearhead the development of indigenous state-of-the-art weapons in various fields, such as precision guided munitions, C4ISR, electronic warfare and avionics. LIG Nex1 has been a crucial component to [South] Korea’s efforts in ensuring an independent national defense capability, and has participated in the development of nine of the ADD’s top 10 defense products of 2008.

LIG Nex1 has put great emphasis on ensuring the quality and reliability of all our products by investing in … environmental testing equipment and facilities, as well as establishing the Reliability Center.

Our efforts have resulted in LIG Nex1 winning the grand prize in the 2004 Department of Defense Quality Inspection, which is a testament to our commitment towards the quality and service of our weapon systems.

We also established the Modeling and Simulation [M&S] Research Center in February so that we may speedily react to the ever­changing battlefield environment.

Through a system of thorough preliminary simulation/inspection and the organic cooperation of each of our research branches, LIG Nex1’s M&S Research Center has enabled us to stay ahead of the pack in the research arena. 

Q. What is the company’s strategy in dealing with the worldwide economic downturn?

A. LIG Nex1 sees the downturn not just as a threat, but more as an opportunity. Through aggressive investments in R&D [research and development], we are continually researching new technologies to prepare for future businesses. LIG Nex1 is also working in close cooperation with numerous world-class defense companies in infrastructure investments, technology acquisition and weapon system production to expand our horizons. 

Q. How do your projected 2009 numbers compare with 2008 revenue figures and sales? What percentage is defense versus commercial sales?

A. LIG Nex1 led the [South] Korean defense market in 2008 with revenue of approximately 850 billion Korean won ($728.7 million), and we expect an increase of over 100 billion Korean won this year in our revenue figures.

Due to the fact that LIG Nex1 is a dedicated defense company, our commercial sector accounts for about 1 percent of our total revenue. But in order to maintain our growth, LIG Nex1 will continue to focus on the export of our commercial solutions as well. 

Q. What product lines are most in demand at home and abroad? Where do you see future growth?

A. LIG Nex1 is the only company in [South] Korea which offers total solutions for all three branches of the military. Our business scope covers C4I, ISR [intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance], PGM [precision guided munitions], electronic warfare and avionics, and of the five areas, the PGM sector has seen the highest demand.

LIG Nex1 is continually investing in and developing other business areas, such as future warfare and autonomous unmanned systems, to ensure that we will continue to lead the [South] Korean defense industry.

Although it is well-recognized that in order to overcome the limitation of the domestic defense market, one must cultivate the export market, due to the unique dynamics of the defense industry, one cannot compete in the world market using a generalized export strategy. To maximize exports while avoiding competition with market-leading defense companies, LIG Nex1 has been actively promoting exports of communications equipment to Southeast Asian countries. Through continual development of new technologies as well as localization of the above-mentioned technologies, LIG Nex1 plans to increase not only our export volume, but also our market coverage.

As an example, LIG Nex1 is now developing the first domestically designed ship-to-air missiles, as well as the domestically designed radar for the KAI TA/FA-50 advanced fighter trainer. Through the acquisition of indigenous technologies, we hope to increase our competitiveness even more in the world market and thus increase our exports. We will continue to invest not just in the development of technologies, but in continued exchanges with domestic and global industrial/academic institutions. 

Q. What is the company’s 10-year plan?

A. LIG Nex1 recently announced our goal to become a top-tier defense company by 2020 under the slogan of “true dream partner.” To achieve this goal, we plan to increase our stronghold in the field of precision electronic solutions as well as expand our overseas business. We will also invest in future warfare and autonomous unmanned systems to maintain an edge over our competitors.

Through strategic outsourcing, we intend to increase the efficiency of our business as well. 

Q. What about R&D?

A. It would not be a stretch to say that LIG Nex1’s continual growth to this point has been due to our focus and investments in R&D. We will continue our dedication to the development not only of new technologies but also to the nurturing and developing of our human resources. Of the 2,500 or so employees currently under LIG Nex1’s umbrella, the R&D personnel account for about 35 percent.

We are also investing over 21 percent of our total revenue in R&D.

Q. How has the company changed under your leadership?

A. To ensure the continual growth of the business, a coaching leadership was utilized, which paved the way to LIG Nex1’s No. 1 position in the [South] Korean defense industry today.

But now we must look to the future and to the world, and to accomplish this feat, both the management and the employees must work under a common goal. I intend to be at the forefront of that change leading by example, utilizing a future-oriented leadership.

I guess I would like to be remembered as the person who brought growth to LIG Nex1. I would like to think that 10 years from now, LIG Nex1 will have be3­come a global top-tier company. In order to reach such a goal, I believe that LIG Nex1 must find the answer in increasing exports.

I guess this sentiment is a common one for any CEO in the defense industry, but with the continual advancements and growth we have recently shown, I believe that this goal is not an unreachable one. No one can predict the future, but I feel that if all our employees continue down the path that we have been laying down, 10 years from now, my wishes of being remembered as the person who brought growth to LIG Nex1 will be realized. 

Q. What are the South Korean defense industry’s strengths and weaknesses?

A. The industry has traditionally been concentrating on keeping pace with North Korea and other nearby countries through the relatively short-term procurement of foreign goods through such programs as the U.S. Foreign Military Sales program. Domestic R&D has also been led by government agencies, weakening the individual companies’ ability to independently develop technologies. This has widened the gap between [South] Korean defense companies and their foreign counterparts.

Although the defense market and the battlefields of the future continue to change, the growth of the defense industry here is almost at a saturation point.

The [South] Korean defense market has recently been changing so that it can grow to reach the next level. The establishment of the DAPA in 2006 has led to many policy changes in the government’s stand on defense exports, such as the opening of doors so that any defense company can participate in government programs, the promotion of company-led R&D, as well as the increase of R&D funding. These changes have acted as a motivation to the domestic defense industry, as well as increasing the industry’s R&D capability.

The governmental policies to promote and strengthen exports are also motivating companies to follow suit. I believe that these types of changes in government policies will act as a foundation on which the [South] Korean defense industry can grow. 

Q. Can you tell me about the Rolling Air­frame Missile (RAM) business?

A. The domestic development of the RAM is being carried out with technological support from U.S.­based Raytheon. It is significant in that this type of weapon solution is a first for [South] Korea. We also believe that this will act as a springboard for the future indigenous development of a defense system against anti-ship missiles.

We recently held a rollout ceremony at our Gumi factory with guests from the [South] Korean Navy, DAPA, the Defense Agency for Technology and Quality and Raytheon attending.

As you well know, the RAM is a point-defense weapon against anti­ship cruise missiles. The Navy is planning to equip our destroyers and Landing Platform eXperimental ships with the RAM system, which will increase operational effectiveness in any combat condition. ■