The South Korean FX-III fighter acquisition bidding, with Boeing, EADS, and Lockheed Martin vying to emerge as victors in supplying South Korea’s next generation of fighter jets, continues to bring a glorious amount of layers as we move towards a final winner this summer. With Boeing potentially offering an F-15 SE model that may or may not exist, and Lockheed Martin selling an over- budget bird, potentially delivered later than expected (along with any in-country political scandal or Chinese data acquisition), it appears that Europe’s EADS felt left out in all the chaos, now throwing a few wrenches of their own into the process:
The European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company (EADS) will have no choice but to drop its pledge to allow the building of multi-role combat jets under license here should it win the bid to supply the aircraft to the Korean Air Force, industry sources said Wednesday.
The consortium proposed in June last year to have the final assembly line in Korea to allow it assembly 50 of 60 deliveries.
It also promised to allow local manufacturers here to produce and supply parts for the last batch of 26 advanced jets and reaffirmed its stance in August last year in an official letter to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
“DAPA has decided to purchase finished products without giving favors or incentives to the one offering licensed production,” an industry source said asking for anonymity. “How can EADS offer to allow Korea to build its fighters under license, when the country clearly demands finished products?”
EADS is currently competing with two U.S. defense giants ― Lockheed Martin and Boeing ― for Korea’s fighter jet procurement project aimed at purchasing 60 advanced jets at 8.29 trillion won ($7.26 billion).
EADS wants to sell the Eurofighter Typhoons to replace Korea’s aging F-4 and F-5 jets in a race, code named the FX-III, against Lockheed Martin’s F-35, the most stealthy aircraft on the market, and Boeing with the F-15 Silent Eagle, a semi-stealth fighter under development.
When asked whether EADS will abide by its earlier promise of licensed production, Mariano Barrena, head of the Eurofighteer campaign in Korea and other EADS officials could not give a direct answer.
Instead, Barrena replied that EADS is willing to put together a “comprehensive industrial participation proposal in which final assembly, components and parts manufacturing including high-tech equipment will be offered.”
He also declined to comment on media reports that his company will likely walk away from its promise of investing 20 percent of the cost for a Korea-initiated project to develop a new multirole fighter, named KF-X.
“We will include attractive and compelling means of cooperation in KF-X,” Barrena said, refusing to answer the question.
Sources say EADS will likely backtrack on some of its earlier pledges as DAPA made it clear that no substantial incentive will be given in the FX-III race to a company committed to shouldering the financial burden of the KF-X project and providing a final assembly line.
According to a 2011 report by Korea National Defense University, EADS expressed its intent to invest up to 20 percent or $1 billion into the KF-X program. (Source: Lee Tae-hoon, The Korea Times)
While EADS’s Eurofighter Typhoon lacks some of the design features initially required by South Korea, they were in interesting dark horse in the race, if solely for offering a solid plane that already exists and not bringing much drama into the mix.
EADS’s Typhoon is a solid bird, but one that doesn’t quite match up to Boeing and Lockheed’s offers. Of course, if Boeing fails to come through with the F-15 Silent Eagle design, and if changing prices and delays continue to plague Lockheed’s F-35, EADS still stands ready to offer a reliable plane to the Republic of Korea.
In the past, I was prone to saying I’d be shocked if EADS won the FX-III competition, but with all the ups and downs in this race, nothing would shock me anymore.
Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch