U.S. Refuses to Transfer Key Tech for Fighter Jet Project

  • By Jun Hyun-suk

    September 22, 2015 10:37

    The U.S. has refused to transfer core technologies connected to the next-generation F-35 fighter jets to Korea, throwing plans to acquire 40 of them for the Air Force into disarray.

    Lockheed Martin, the manufacturer, had agreed in negotiations in September last year to transfer the technologies to Korea. But U.S. government intervention means the entire project worth W20 trillion is up in the air (US$1=W1,177).

    According to data New Politics Alliance for Democracy lawmaker Ahn Gyu-baek obtained from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the military signed the contract with Lockheed Martin last September to buy 40 F-35As for W7.34 trillion.

    Lockheed Martin promised to provide Korea with technical assistance on 25 technologies, including the AESA radar. In the negotiations Lockheed Martin boasted that those technologies are worth several trillions of won.

    The AESA is a state-of-the-art radar with electronic warfare capabilities that can search and track targets more quickly and precisely than other existing radars. Korea wanted to deploy the next-generation fighter jets warfare-ready by 2025 with these technologies on board.

    But the U.S. government did not approve the transfer of four of the 25 technologies for security reasons. DAPA reportedly locked horns with Lockheed Martin over these technologies until the last moment of negotiations.

    Despite Lockheed Martin's breach of contract, DAPA has no effective means of calling it to account. Instead, it has decided to develop two technologies -- the AESA radar and the infrared search and track sensor -- on its own and the others in cooperation with a European firm.

    But Ahn said it is by no means certain DAPA will succeed, and even if it does there could be compatibility problems with the American equipment.

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