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There should be no corruption in Korea`s largest fighter jet project

There should be no corruption in Korea`s largest fighter jet project

Posted March. 31, 2015 07:25,   


Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been selected for the KFX fighter program to build an indigenous fighter, which is the largest weapons development project costing 18 trillion won (16.2 billion U.S. dollars) in Korean history. The goal is to develop 120 new fighters that are KF-16 class or better and deploy them by 2032, replacing aging fighters that are almost 40 years old. The new fighters will be equipped with steal capabilities as well as cutting-edge radars and navigation equipment. If the program is successfully completed, both the defense industry and the aerospace industry could expect a giant leap forward but not without obstacles. If the program is mired in corruption, it could deal a blow to Korea’s defense.

The KFX program – to be jointly developed by KAI and Lockheed Martin - costs almost 8.7 trillion won (7.87 billion dollars) for development alone. Although the domestic aircraft manufacturer has experiences such as Jet Trainer T-50s and Surion transport helicopters, and production facilities, there are concerns over its capability to develop cutting-edge fighter jets. Success depends on whether it can obtain the core technology of Lockheed Martin smoothly with the approval of the U.S. government. It is also important to finance the tremendous project cost. Many programs to introduce indigenous weapons, which were pursued as part of efforts to seek independence in defense, caused controversy over capabilities and safety due to corruption allegations in the past. This should never happen again.

Although KAI is selected as the preferred bidder in a fair process, the Board of Audit and Inspection is investigating on suspicion of corruption. It is suspected to have used gift certificates worth around three billion won (2.71 million dollars) to lobby the Air Force and politicians, and created a slush fund for lobbying worth around one billion won (904,000 dollars) in foreign exchange profits. KAI denies the allegations, but the suspicions need to be investigated to enhance the transparency of the KFX project.

A joint investigation team for probing defense corruption cases is working on the documents in the secret container of Ilgwang Gongyoung Chairman Lee Gyu-tae who received 115.4 billion won (104.3 million dollars) for brokering the adoption of the Electronic Warfare Training System (EWTS) for the Air Force. The military claims that the KFX project could create 13.2 trillion won (11.94 billion dollars) in production and generate some 60,000 jobs. However, it is doubtful whether the project can be completed without corruption problems at a time when a series of corruption cases are unveiled. The project can be successful only when it is proceeded with the determination that there will never be an investigation into a corruption scandal involving the project.