South Korea Pitches ‘S-400 Inspired’ Surface-To-Air Missiles To Malaysia After Clinching FA-50 Fighter Deal

South Korea is actively expanding its defense cooperation with Malaysia following the successful deal to supply FA-50 fighters to the Southeast Asian nation. 

Bombed By Israel To Protect Its Sensitive Tech, India Bets On Israeli Drone To Keep An Eye On Pakistan

Earlier, EurAsian Times reported that Malaysia may be keen to arm its Su-30 fighters with Indo-Russian BrahMos missiles. The original range of the BrahMos was 290 kilometers. In 2023, the Indian Air Force successfully tested an extended-range BrahMos with a range of 450 km fitted on a Sukhoi-30 jet. The full report can be read here.

The latest discussions revolve around potential exports of South Korea’s K239 Chunmoo rocket artillery systems and the Cheongung-II mid-range surface-air-to-missile system, announced South Korea’s state arms procurement agency on May 11.

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) revealed that Seok Jong-gun, the Minister of DAPA, engaged in talks with Malaysian Defense Minister Mohamed Khaled Nordin during the Defence Service Asia Exhibition and Conference held in Kuala Lumpur on May 7.

The discussions aimed to explore avenues for augmenting defense ties between the two nations. According to DAPA, the two parties talked about the export of FA-50 light attack aircraft from South Korea to Malaysia.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) secured a deal last May to supply 18 FA-50s to Kuala Lumpur. Recently, it was reported that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) is set to acquire another batch of 18 FA-50M light combat aircraft, effectively increasing the total order to 36 units.

K239 Chunmoo - Wikipedia
K239 Chunmoo – Wikipedia

Park Shang-shin, KAI’s regional manager for Asia, expressed confidence in the potential for negotiations regarding the second batch of aircraft, slated to commence in the latter half of 2026 and conclude by early 2027.

Park also highlighted that the FA-50M variant procured by Malaysia boasts advanced capabilities surpassing its counterparts operated by the Republic of Korea Air Force and other regional countries, including Thailand, the Philippines, and Indonesia.

Expanding beyond the FA-50 deal, South Korea is now offering a range of defense equipment to Kuala Lumpur. The K239 Chunmoo, a wheeled, self-propelled multiple rocket launcher manufactured by Hanwha Defense, is one of the systems on the table.

The system, also known as the Korean Multiple Launch Rocket System (K-MLRS), is currently used by South Korea, Poland, Saudi Arabia, and the UAE.

Additionally, the discussions highlighted the potential export of the Cheongung-II mid-range surface-to-air missile system, known as KM-SAM or Cheolmae-2.

Developed by the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) with technical support from Russia’s Almaz-Antey and Fakel, this system draws on technology from the renowned S-350E and S-400 missile systems. While South Korea is currently the sole operator of this system, Saudi Arabia and the UAE are slated to join as future operators.

South Korean officials, however, refrained from disclosing the quantity of these defense systems Malaysia may be procuring. The talks signal a burgeoning partnership between the two nations, underlining South Korea’s efforts to strengthen defense ties with Southeast Asian countries.

Philippines, Vietnam Keen On Korean Weapons

With a target of securing arms exports worth US$20 billion this year, South Korea is intensifying its efforts to forge stronger defense partnerships with Southeast Asian nations. This ambitious goal follows last year’s success, where defense export contracts amounted to $14 billion.

FA-50GF light attack aircraft

In the latest announcement, the agency disclosed its ongoing discussions with the Philippines and Vietnam regarding the potential export of South Korean weapon systems.

Philippine officials have shown keen interest in the KF-21 fighter jet, FA-50 aircraft, and submarines. The Philippines, which already operates a fleet of FA-50 aircraft acquired from South Korea, is considering further bolstering its air capabilities.

Seoul has been actively recommending the acquisition of more FA-50s to ensure comprehensive coverage of the Philippines’ territory and enhance response capabilities to emerging threats.

South Korea has proposed retrofitting and upgrading the existing FA-50PH fleet. Once that is done, these aircraft will undertake diverse mission objectives encompassing air-to-ground, air-to-sea, and air-to-air operations.

KAI KF-21 Boramae – Wikipedia

On the submarine front, South Korean defense firm Hanwha Ocean (formerly known as DSME) is offering its Jang Bogo-III submarines to the Philippine Navy.

Meanwhile, the revelation of the Philippines’ interest in the KF-21 aircraft signals Manila’s interest in acquiring a next-generation warplane.

Seoul’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) recently approved the KF-21, a 4.5-generation aircraft, for mass production. Should Manila move forward to acquire the KF-21, it could further advance its ‘diverse’ combat capabilities. The country has signed deals to acquire Rafale and F-15EX fighters.

Discussions between South Korea and Vietnam have centered on acquiring the K-9 self-propelled howitzer. The agency said that Vietnam had shown interest in the K9 Thunder, a highly successful South Korean artillery system already used by several countries worldwide, including India, Poland, Turkey, Estonia, Egypt, and Norway.

Although substantive negotiations regarding the number of self-propelled guns to be purchased by Manila have not yet been disclosed, and details remain scarce, the engagements signify a promising start to potential defense collaboration between South Korea and Southeast Asian partners.