January 10, 2008:
South Korea has
backed out of a deal to buy four American Global Hawk UAVs. The official reason
given was that such a purchase would violate the MTCR (Missile Technology
Control Regime) treaty. This is a 1987 agreement meant to control the proliferation
of unmanned systems capable of delivering nuclear, chemical and biological
weapons. In 1992, the treaty was amended to include unmanned aircraft (in
addition to ballistic and cruise missiles). Currently, 34 nations have signed
on to the MTCR.
The real reason for backing out of the
Global Hawk deal was sticker shock. While much was made of the basic cost of
each Global Hawk ($21 million), a South Korea government report subsequently
pointed out that the overall cost of each UAV could go as high as $131 million.
Meanwhile, the much smaller Shadow 200 UAV (which the U.S. Army uses
extensively to support brigade and division intelligence efforts) costs about
$300,000 each, and can do most of what the South Koreans want the Global Hawk
to do. According to the South Koreans, the Shadow 200 doesn't violate the MTCR.