September 27th, 2013 By KoreanInformation - defencetalk.com
The Ministry of National Defense launched a task force Wednesday to take charge of the F-X III project to purchase 60 fighter jets amid growing concerns over a lack of aircraft in the coming years.
The move came one day after Korea decided to reject Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle (SE) due to its lack of full stealth capability.
The third phase of the F-X program is aimed at replacing the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
The team, divided into four subcommittees, is led by Lee Yong-dae, deputy minister at the office of force and resources management at the ministry, and will be fully staffed with members from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Air Force, procurement office and aerospace researchers by the end of this week, according to Lee.
Participants at a preliminary meeting said officials discussed various alternatives, including altering the number of aircraft to be purchased, increasing the budget and purchasing the planes in phases.
With the rejection of Boeing, Korea’s plan to bring in new combat planes from 2017 is expected to be delayed for up to two years, and the Air Force is likely to suffer a lack of approximately 100 aircraft by 2019.
Defense watchers say that the task force needs to make clear the goal of the F-X III project so as not suffer another setback.
“If the goal is clearly set, the timeframe for a new tender could be shortened,” said Yang Uk, a senior researcher fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum.
Shin Bo-hyun, a professor at the defense acquisition department at Konkuk University, also said: “By putting all related organizations under the task force’s wing, unnecessary administrative procedures can be reduced.”
Yang also said that the formation of the team means the ministry is in a hurry to address the urgent need for aircraft. An F-5 fighter jet crashed into a mountain in North Chungcheong Province, Thursday.
“It has significance that a high-ranking official of the defense ministry is at the helm of the task force, which means the ministry is set to give full support,” he said.