UAE to invest in the South Korean military transport aircraft MS-X project

According to the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), on January 15, 2023, it signed memorandums of understanding with the state fund for the development of defence and security of the United Arab Emirates Tawazun Council on strategic cooperation in the field of the defence industry and on the accession of the UAE to the implementation of the ongoing South Korean aircraft manufacturing corporation Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) of the program to create a promising multi-purpose medium military transport aircraft MS-X.

The parties have agreed to conduct collaborative investment, research, and technology development for the MC-X project in accordance with the conditions of the second agreement. This “will contribute to the expansion of bilateral cooperation in the defence industry,” as the agreement states. It has been estimated that the United Arab Emirates will incur a cost of $3.2 billion in order to participate in the MC-X initiative. The United Arab Emirates aims to spend up to $30 billion in South Korea’s energy and defence industries through a multi-agreement investment scheme, of which this transaction is a part. 

Korean Aerospace Industries Multi-purpose medium military transport aircraft MS-X.
Multi-purpose medium military transport aircraft MS-X. Image: KAI

In the year 2021, KAI unveiled the preliminary design of a prospective medium-sized military transport aircraft that would be known as MC-X (Multi-mission Cargo eXperimental). This aircraft would be in the same class as the Lockheed Martin C-130 Hercules and the Embraer C-390 aircraft. The preliminary unofficial name for this aircraft would be Orca (“Killer Whale”). The fundamental layout of the MC-X aircraft was first shown to the public in September 2022 at the DX Korea 2022 defence exhibition in South Korea. KAI executives anticipated that the development of the MC-X aircraft would take between seven and eight years.

According to information regarding the preliminary project that was provided by KAI, the MS-X should feature a high-wing configuration with a tail cargo ramp, and it should be equipped with two unidentified by-pass turbojet engines that have a maximum thrust of 30,000 pounds (13,500 kg) each. The maximum takeoff is 92,000 kg, and the maximum weight that can be carried during flight is 30,000 kg. The plane has a length of roughly 40.3 metres, a height of around 13.5 metres, and a wingspan of approximately 41.1 metres. Its maximum speed is 926 kilometres per hour, and it can travel up to 7000 kilometres before needing a recharge.

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