The Korean military and arms makers firms are worried about rumors that U.S. intelligence agencies were investigating the Korean defense industry. Now there are reports that the U.S. suspects Korea of stealing technologies for the Navy's Aegis system and some weapons components.
"Rumors are circulating that U.S. agencies have launched an investigation under the project name 'Blue Lantern' because they suspect that some Korean-made weapons components such as Aegis radar systems and electronic warfare equipment are imitations," a military source said Sunday. "Nothing's been confirmed yet."
The U.S. is reportedly suspicious about the ALQ-200 electronic warfare equipment, the K1A1 tanks' fire control equipment, torpedoes, and a multiple launch rocket system.
Government officials said they tried to sell the ALQ-200 to Pakistan in 2009 but immediately dropped the plan when the U.S. took issue with it. Nothing new has been heard about it since.
A source in the U.S. Forces Korea also denied the rumors, claiming a visit from the U.S.' Defense Intelligence Agency to Korea early this month had nothing to do with Korean weapons exports but that he was here to attend a regular conference on North Korea.
But experts say it remains to be seen whether the U.S. slams the brakes on Korea's burgeoning arms exports.
The government will decide to build weapons models worth about W10 trillion (US$1=W1,139) in October next year, two months before the presidential election. Major procurement plans include the Air Force's F-X fighter acquisition project worth W8.3 trillion, the Army's AH-X attack helicopter project worth W1.8 trillion, and the Navy's maritime operations helicopter project worth W550 billion.
Meanwhile, the government has set aside W47.2 billion out of W54.3 billion from next year's budget allocated for the Air Force's F-X fighter acquisition project so that this amount can be carried over to the following year, effectively leaving the decision to the next government.