S. Korea set to open largest

South Korea is set to open its largest-ever defense exhibition Tuesday to boost exports of its latest weapons and technologies, with aerial displays of the homegrown KF-21 fighter jet and U.S. strategic bomber B-52.

The Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition 2023 takes place at Seoul Air Base in Seongnam, just south of Seoul, until Sunday, involving 550 companies from 35 countries.

It is expected to draw some 30,000 visitors, including over 114 military and defense officials from 55 countries, marking the largest-ever edition of the biennial event launched in 1996.

During the opening ceremony, South Korea's Black Eagles acrobatic team and the Australian Paul Bennet aerobatics team will stage acrobatic flights to celebrate the trade show.

South Korea's homegrown KF-21 fighter jet will conduct the demonstration flight in its public debut, which will be joined by U.S. military aircraft, including the F-22 stealth jet, F-16 fighter jet, T-50 trainer jet and U-2 spy plane, to commemorate the 70th anniversary of the bilateral alliance this year.

The U.S. Air Force's nuclear-capable B-52 bomber plans to conduct two flyovers and land at a South Korean air base during the exhibition period.

Although B-52s, considered a key strategic asset, along with the B-1B and B-2 bombers, have been deployed to joint drills between Seoul and Washington, it will mark the first time that one has landed at a South Korean air base.

Additionally, the EA-18G Growler, an American carrier-based electronic warfare aircraft, will be displayed to the Korean public for the first time.

South Korean companies plan to showcase their latest weapons systems and technologies to boost defense exports in the hope of building momentum from the large-scale arms deals in Poland.

Last year, South Korea's arms exports hit a record high of 22.9 trillion won ($17.9 billion), according to Morgan Stanley, as it signed major contracts with Poland to supply K2 tanks, K-9 self-propelled howitzers, FA-50 light attack aircraft and Chunmoo multiple rocket launchers.

The defense ministry has unveiled a goal to carve out a 5 percent share of the global arms export market by 2027 to become the world's fourth-largest defense exporter.

The first four days will host various seminars and forums for defense industry officials before the exhibition is opened to the general public in the last two days. (Yonhap)

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