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[Opinion] T-50

Posted August. 31, 2005 06:49,   


The U.S.’ first fighter jet P-80, the world’s first supersonic fighter F-104 Starfighter, the high altitude reconnaissance aircraft U-2, SR-71, the first three-times-the-speed-of-sound surveillance aircraft, and the world’s first F-117A stealth fighter. What do these “masterpiece” aircrafts have in common? The answer is “brothers born to a single organization.” The matrix is Skunk Works, the Lockheed (currently known as Lockheed Martin)’s advanced development project unit. Established in the WWII period, it is a secret unit that has led the global aerospace technology.

According to “Skunk Works” written by the unit’s head Ben Rich, the key to success boils down to one factor; minimizing unnecessary management and control from the top and creating an environment where engineers can work freely. This precisely matches the vision of “innovation” mentioned so often by our government and companies these days. While it is all talk but no action for us, however, Skunk Works, a small team of 50 design engineers and 100 technicians, accomplished remarkable success early on in the 1950s.

Korea’s first supersonic trainer T-50 celebrated its launching ceremony yesterday. It is welcoming that this project which began in 1992 now kicks off its commercial manufacturing after undergoing so many challenges. Above all, I would like to pay tribute to the dedication made by those in charge of the project along with the 1,300 engineers. By rewarding the country a “medal” for having become the world’s 12th supersonic aircraft developer, the T-50 will contribute to the foundation for self-reliant national defense.

Still, we cannot remain complacent. Successfully implementing the plan for developing domestic fighters requires many more jobs such as further increasing the current 60 percent range of T-50 local part ratio against prices. To that end, we may need to learn the team spirit of Skunk Works: the unwavering will to go after impossible technology and the courage to resist needless bureaucracy. Fortunately, now may be a good opportunity since Lockheed Martin is participating in the development of T-50.

Editorial Writer Song Moon-hong, songmh@donga.com