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Fierce Competition at Korea Air Expo

Posted October. 22, 2005 10:29,   


Some 225 firms from 24 countries participated in the Korea Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2005 (Seoul Air Show 2005), showing off their aircraft and weapons worth an annual $400 billion (approximately 400 trillion won). The companies are in a heated competition to generate orders, and international arms buyers and lobbyists are also in tight competition behind the scenes of the air show.

At the outdoor display area set up at the runway of Seoul Airport on the morning of October 21, many of the 700 booths separated into 22 sectors at the outdoor exhibition area were busily setting up high-tech simulators which test the efficiency of their products, and handing out publicity CDs and pamphlets to promote the sales of their products.

Company officials whispering with visitors with serious expressions on their faces could be seen in some booths. They seemed to be national defense officials from a foreign country or those in the defense industry. This is the scene of the “dark” arms trade which we usually see in spy movies or novels, but which is taking place in open space instead of behind closed doors.

A life-size model of the F-35 JSF (Joint Strike Fighter) made its first appearance in Korea at the booth of the U.S. Lockheed Martin Corporation. The U.S. plans to replace its naval and air force fighters with this next generation fighter, which will take place after a test flight during the second half of next year. The Korean “taegeuk” mark and the word “ROKAF” (Republic of Korea Air Force) are printed clearly on the tail wing, which is catching the eyes of people.

An official of the firm said, “This is a publicity and strategy move taking into consideration the fact that F-35 is a candidate model for the second Fighter Experimental (FX) project that the Korean air force is planning.” The U.S. has yet to deploy this latest state-of-the-art fighter, but still has no reservations about painting a Korean “taegeuk” mark on the plane to stimulate its purchase by Korea.

In the next booth, the U.S. company Boeing revealed to foreign reporters and defense industry officials the insides of the new E-737 Airborne Early Warning and Control (AEWC) aircraft. Boeing has jumped into the Korean early warning aircraft system project, and it dispatched the aircraft, which was delivered to the Australian air force with the consent of the country.

A Boeing official said, “With the model selection up ahead at the end of the year, we have made this air show our venue for final competition, and many of our executives from our main office are in attendance.”

The FX project of the Korean air force is worth 5.6 trillion won, and the EX project is worth some 2.1 trillion won, which is why sales promotions targeting Korea are so heated.

Korea has exhibited its KT-1 training plane and T-50 Golden Eagle, a new advanced jet trainer, and is making efforts to generate sales to foreign countries. Some Middle East and Latin American countries have shown interest in the Korean training aircraft, but there have been no contracts made yet.

The public will be able to see the air show during the last two days of the event, from October 22 to October 23. A shuttle bus will be in service from Moran Station on Line 8 of the Seoul subway which will take visitors to the Seoul Airport. For more information on Seoul Air Show 2005, check out the official website at www.seoulairshow.com.

Sang-Ho Yun ysh1005@donga.com