South Korea’s biggest ever arms buyer revealed

Poland and South Korea signed a framework agreement on Wednesday for what is being hailed as Seoul’s largest ever arms deal. South Korean manufacturers will supply almost 1,000 tanks, over 600 artillery pieces, and nearly 50 fighter jets to the Eastern European nation.

The multi-billion-dollar deal will be among the largest and most significant Polish defense orders in recent years and will substantially strengthen the country’s armed forces, Poland’s Defense Ministry announced in a press release. 

The orders are divided into two stages, according to the press release. The first stage covers 180 K2 tanks and 48 K9 howitzers, the first deliveries of which are expected this year. Stage two will include over 800 enhanced K2PL tanks and 600 K9 howitzers and will involve technology transfers: both weapons will be produced in Poland starting in 2026. 

Under a separate contract, Poland will also acquire 48 FA-50 jets that can be used for both training and combat. According to the Polish Defense Ministry, the first aircraft will be delivered next year. The FA-50 will enable Warsaw to scrap its post-Soviet planes and intensify the training of Polish pilots, the ministry’s press release says. 

The arms deal will be a key part of Poland’s effort to rearm in the wake of the conflict in Ukraine, Polish Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said. “We learn lessons from what is happening in Ukraine. (…) We can see that armored forces and artillery are of great importance on the battlefield nowadays, hence the decision to strengthen this type of armed forces,” the minister told reporters after approving the contracts. 

When asked if its cooperation with Poland meant Seoul was ready to provide more aid to Kiev, South Korean Minister of Foreign Affairs Park Jin stressed that the deal was strictly a bilateral matter, Reuters reported. 

While the pricing of the purchase has not been made public, it is widely expected to exceed the $7 billion total value of all arms sold by South Korea to global customers last year. With the fighter jets alone priced at $3 billion, the overall amount is estimated to be in the $14-15 billion range, potentially surpassing Poland’s entire current-year defense allocation of $14.1 billion.

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