On Thursday, January 25, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) organized a meeting with representatives of the Korean Air Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) research institute, the Air Force (Daehanminguk Gong-gun) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), during which consent was announced to start serial production of RQ-105K unmanned aerial vehicles in the MUAV (Medium-Altitude Unmanned Aerial Vehicle) program.
To expand the capabilities of unmanned aerial platforms in the Korean military, in 2006 it was announced the launch of a program codenamed MUAV (Medium-Altitude UAV), which was aimed at developing a local equivalent of the American General Atomics MQ-9A Reaper (but an unarmed version). In 2008, ADD and KAL-ASD were selected as lead designers and development of a future platform called KUS-FS began.
However, in December 2012, the program was effectively duplicated when the US approved the sale of Northrop Grumman RQ-4 Global Hawk autonomous high-altitude long endurance (HALE) unmanned aerial vehicles to South Korea. Additionally, development of the domestic design was suspended midway through the MUAV program due to problems such as icing at mid-altitudes and the failure of the prototype in December 2019.
Although the development timeline was extended due to several issues, in March 2023, DAPA certified the KUS-FS project as Korean Defense Specification and finally completed its development. The aircraft was officially named RQ-105K MUAV.
The RQ-105K has an overall length of 13 m, a wingspan of 25 m and a height of 3 m and is equipped with a Hanwha Aerospace turboprop engine which generate 1,200 hp (890 kW) and 24.46 kN thrust, and is based on the Samsung Techwin SS-760K turbojet engine with a thrust of 4.67 kN. It is equipped with a Hanwha Systems EO/IR Electro-optical sensor and a Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) from LIG Nex1.
In addition, with the development of the RQ-105K platform, a program for a maritime patrol and observation version (including fires observation) was proposed. DAPA also proposed in 2023 a concept of a unmanned combat aerial vehicle (UCAV) called MQ-105K. Hanwha Aerospace’s TAipers anti-tank guided missile or another ATGM being developed specifically for the UCAV by LIG Nex1 is expected to be integrated into the MQ-105K, which is also a strategy to counter North Korea’s newly unveiled Saetbyol-4 and Saetbyol-9 UAVs, which are visual copies of the U.S. RQ-4 Global Hawk and MQ-9A Reaper.