LEIDEN, Netherlands, May 24 (UPI)
With South Korea edging closer to deciding on a contractor for its $7.3 billion KF-X fighter program, a European competitor is dangling a new carrot to its bid.
EADS, based in the Netherlands and part of the consortium that builds the Eurofighter Typhoon, says if the aircraft is chosen to replace South Korea's antiquated F-4 and F-5 fleets, it will invest $2 billion "and its technology in the KF-X to help Korea to become a fighter jet producer."
The announcement follows that of Eurofighter, which promised to assemble 53 of 60 aircraft to be produced in South Korea. It's estimated the local assembly would lead to creation of 50,000 jobs.
EADS has also said it would build a maintenance repair and overhaul facility for the aircraft in South Korea and an aerospace software center.
"If Korea chooses Eurofighter as its next generation fighter jet and EADS invests more than 2 trillion KRW [$2 billion] in the KF-X program, it will bring bigger economic effect than the SURION and Korea will be the fifth country [that] produces Eurofighter, high-level fighter jets," EADS said.
"It will also create strong political and military ties with Europe."
SURION is a Korean utility helicopter developed by Korea Aerospace Industries with technology obtained from Eurocopter, an EADS subsidiary headquartered in France.
"The SURION raised Korea to the 11th helicopter manufacturer in the world," EADS said, and created 25,000 jobs.
In its news release, EADS emphasized its business ties to the country. KAI, it noted, has supplied parts for Airbus aircraft since 1998.
Airbus, located in France, is another EADS subsidiary.
Other competitors for the KF-X contract are U.S. companies Lockheed Martin and Boeing. Lockheed is offering its F-35 Lightning II fighter while Boeing is offering its F-15 Silent Eagle.
A news report from Seoul says the country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration expects to make a final decision on a contractor next June.
"The price negotiations have been completed and we don't plan to have another round of negotiations," DAPA spokesman Baek Yoon-hyeong told a news briefing. "We plan to conduct the auction within June."
Meanwhile, the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency reports the South Korean government has requested possible procurement of weapons in support of a "potential Direct Commercial Sale" of F-15 SE aircraft.
The package, if approved by Congress and if it goes through, would include associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support.
The deal would be worth $823 million.
Among items requested: Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles, Joint Directed Attack Munition Tail Kits, small diameter bombs, general purpose bombs, AIM-9X-2 (Blk II) tactical missiles, containers, missile support and test equipment, provisioning, spare and repair parts.
"The proposed sale will provide the ROK with aircraft weapons for the F-15SE," the agency said. "These aircraft and weapons will provide the ROK with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces."