Russia pulls out of Korea fighter project
Sweden mulls taking part in FX-III race with Gripen
By Lee Tae-hoon
Russia will not enter Korea’s advanced jet acquisition project as none of its aircraft manufacturers including Sukhoi expressed their intent to join the heated competition, officials here said.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) listed Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA in July last year as one of the four contenders to have expressed an interest in joining the open bidding worth 8.29 trillion won ($7.3 billion) along with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS).
``No Russian firm submitted an application to attend the program’s explanatory session, which was a prerequisite to participate, by the Friday registration deadline,” a spokesman of DAPA said.
He noted that a representative from Swedish company Saab, which has been searching for additional export orders for its Gripen multirole fighters, successfully filed an application for the mandatory session along with Boeing, Lockheed Martine and EADS.
“It is too early to tell whether Saab is serious about joining the race, or the European company will be attending the session out of curiosity and have a peek at Korea’s demands,” a senior DAPA official said.
``What appears certain is that the Swedish firm’s aircraft, including the Gripen, does not meet many of the Air Force’s requirements.”
DAPA announced that only those participating in the explanatory session slated for today will be eligible to participate in the FX-III, the third and final phase of the multi-billion dollar fighter jet procurement program.
The state-run arms procurement agency made it clear that the request for proposal (RFP) detailing the FX-III requirements will only be distributed to participants of the explanatory session.
Officials at the Trade Representation of the Russian Federation in Korea acknowledged that Sukhoi has pulled out of the race, considering that the aircraft manufacturer had not sought Moscow’s approval, nor his agency’s help to participate in the fighter bid.
“Both the Russian government and its trade delegations here have yet to receive any proposal from any Russian aviation companies,” a senior trade representative from Russia said.
Sukhoi lost in the FX-I bid, the first phase of Korea’s fighter program in the early 2000s, due largely to concerns over the interoperability of its proposed SU-35 fighters with the Air Force’s existing fleet of American aircraft.
The Russian aerospace firm refrained from making any official comment over the possibility of competing in the FX-III, through which Korea wants to purchase 60 high-end aircraft with stealth capability in October this year.
Meanwhile, Shin Myung-ho, a representative from Saab, confirmed his company has yet to make a decision on whether to compete with the two U.S. defense giants and the European consortium.
“To my understanding, Saab will discuss possible participation in FX-III after receiving the RFP,” he said. “It will, however, take a while before Saab makes any official announcement about its next move on Korea’s jet acquisition bid.”
Korea has purchased 60 F-15s from Boeing, which won both the FX-I and II projects in 2002 and 2008.
Seoul plans to receive proposals from the four possible bidders, for the FX-III project by June 18 and carry out testing and evaluations until September before selecting the winner in October.
Seoul eliminated two key compulsory requirements initially set for FX-III in an attempt to allow more companies to enter the competition for the nation’s largest-ever arms deal.