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Korean defense industry set to enjoy robust 2021

Hanwha Defense’s Redback infantry fighting vehicle (Hanwha Defense)
Hanwha Defense’s Redback infantry fighting vehicle (Hanwha Defense)

South Korean defense companies enjoyed a solid performance last year despite complications from the pandemic and are expected to continue their momentum this year, according to market tracker FnGuide on Tuesday.

Last year, five major local defense firms -- Hanwha Aerospace, LIG Nex1, Korea Aerospace Industries, Hyundai Rotem and Hanwha Systems -- were estimated to have logged sales similar or slightly lower than those of a year prior, as the coronavirus prevented them from landing new contracts and participating in international defense expos.

Things started to improve near the end of last year, with LIG Nex1 winning contracts worth 370 billion won ($33.5 million) alone last month, accounting for almost 25 percent of all contracts it signed last year.

Hanwha Defense is in a race to win a $4.6 billion project in Australia. Last month, the company shipped a prototype of its new armored vehicle Redback to the country for a performance test. Hanwha is one of the two candidates on the shortlist for Australia‘s Land 400 Phase 3 project to introduce around 400 new tracked armored vehicles worth $4.6 billion. The other contender is Germany’s Rheinmetall Defence Electronics.

Korea Aerospace Industries is reportedly in talks with the US Air Force to lease eight units of its T-50 advanced jet trainer aircraft. Hyundai Rotem working in Poland and Norway to win next-generation armored vehicle deals.

“Defense industry’s growth will be propelled by exports through new contracts from countries including Egypt, Iraq, Qatar and the United Arab Emirates,” said Kim Dong-kyun, an analyst at DB Financial Investment.

By Kim Byung-wook (