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Posted : 2012-02-07 16:34
Updated : 2012-02-07 16:34

F-35 may fail to meet key requirements



By Lee Tae-hoon

The United States Air Force (USAF) variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 will likely fail to meet two of the Korean Air Force’s key requirements — the ability to carry weapons externally and fly at Mach 1.6 (1,930 kilometers per hour) or faster, an industry insider said Tuesday.

He pointed out that the Korean military has clearly outlined the two key features as compulsory requirements in its request for proposal (RFP) released Jan. 30.

“The maximum speed of the F-35 Lightning II, which is still under development, is Mach 1.6, the bare minimum the Air Force has stated as a mandatory requirement,” the insider familiar with the RFP said.

“The question is whether Lockheed Martin’s F-35 can prove itself to fly at such an ideal speed as advertised when a team of Air Force pilots test fly the aircraft later this year.”

The Air Force is scheduled to carry out testing and evaluations on the F-35 and its two rivals, Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle and EADS’s Typhoon, from June through September before announcing its selection in October.

The winner of the FX-III project, the third and final phase of Korea’s advanced fighter jet procurement project, will deliver 60 high-end aircraft from 2016 for around 8.29 trillion won ($7.26 billion).

The industry source said the F-35, the only fifth generation stealth aircraft offered on the market, will most likely perform worse than Lockheed Martin has assured when the Air Force checks the U.S. defense giant’s latest multirole, single-engine aircraft.

“What is certain to happen is that the U.S. government will provide assurances to the Air Force that the F-35 will be able to fly at Mach 1.6 by overcoming all of the technical glitches and development problems by the time it is delivered to Korea,” the source said.

“Eventually, this will pave the way for Lockheed Martin, the favorite choice for the U.S. government, to get away with the compulsory requirement and win the FX-III bid. All the broken promises will only cost millions of dollars in penalties.”

Another industry insider pointed out that Lockheed Martin will be unlikely to complete its envisioned development of external pods and pylons for its latest stealth aircraft in time.

“Lockheed Martin has boasted that its aircraft is capable of carrying weapons not only internally, but also externally on its six external missile pylons,” he said. “But it will be physically impossible to complete the development of the external pylons by the time the F-35 is delivered to Korea.”

Randy Howard, Lockheed Martin’s director of the Korea F-35 Campaign, also acknowledged that the external carriage may come as an option for Korea.

“Lockheed Martin did not cancel it, the U.S. government prioritized it,” Howard said, explaining why doubts have been raised over the development of the F-35’s external hard points.

“The F-35 is designed to carry weapons internally. That’s what it does, and that’s why it is stealthy.”

He argued that the F-35’s primary attribute, the ability to penetrate into the enemy’s territory without being detected, will be significantly compromised if Korea chooses to mount weapons externally.

“If you carry weapons externally, you are not stealthy. That’s not normally how you are going to operate F-35s,” he said.

He did note that if Korea insists on the F-35 to have an external carriage, his company is willing to customize it.

“It is only a question of prioritization of weapon certification,” he argued.

“If there are requirements for the external carriage of different weapons, it is not a hard thing because all of the capabilities are there.”

Other industry officials, however, refuted Howard’s claim, saying the development of external pylons not only reduces the aircraft stealth capabilities, but also requires a fundamental change in the aircraft design, which the USAF is not willing to pay for.

관련 한글 기사

[단독] “F-35, 반쪽짜리 전투기에 불과해”

8조 2900억의 규모의 FX 3차 사업에서 가장 유력한 후보기종으로 손꼽히는 미국 록히드마틴사의 F-35가 한국 공군이 제시한 2가지 필수 요구사항을 충족시키지 못하는 반쪽자리 전투기가 될 거라는 주장이 제기되었다.

지난 1월 30일 방사청에서 열린 차세대전투기 사업설명회에 참여했던 한 관계자는 한국이 사업참여를 희망한 업체들에 제시한 제안요청서(RFP)에 전투기 최고속도가 마하 1.6 이상이어야 하고 외부무장도 필수 요구조건이라 명시했지만 F-35는 이 두 가지 조건을 충족시키지 못할 것이라 말했다.

그는 거듭된 개발지연으로 양산시기가 늦추어지고 있는 F-35의 최고속도가 마하 1.6이라고 록히드마틴이 홍보하고 있으나 올해 말로 예정된 현지 평가에서 이러한 이상적 성능을 구연하는 것은 사실상 불가능하다 전망했다.

그는 결국, 미 정부가 F-35의 대한 성능에 대해 보증을 서는 조건으로 속도에 대해 F-35가 면죄부를 받게 될 것이라 말했다. 또한 한국이 F-35를 선택하게 된다면 수백만불 정도의 페널티를 부담하는 정도로 사태가 미봉될 거라 전망했다.

차세대 전투기 사업설명회에 참석했다 다른 관계자는 미공군이 F-35 외부무장 탑재시스템 개발을 비용상승 등의 이유로 포기해 F-35는 한국 공군이 원하는 다목적 (멀티롤) 전투기가 아닌 반쪽짜리 전투기가 될 거라 주장했다.

이에 대해 랜디 하워드 록히드마틴 F-35 한국사업개발담당이사는 “록히드마틴이 (외부 무장 개발을) 취소한 것이 아니라, 미정부가 우선순위를 정한 것”이라며 사실상 외부 무장 개발이 한국에 납품하기로 약속한 Block3 모델에는 적용되지 않을 것임을 시사했다.

하워드 이사는 “F-35는 디자인 자체가 내부 무장을 위해 설계되었고, 그 때문에 F-35가 스텔스 전투기이며 스텔스 작전을 할 수 있는 것”이라며 만약 외부무장 장착장비 (Pods and Pylons)를 한국이 추가하게 되면 그만 큼 스텔스 기능의 저하를 감수해야 할 거라 말했다.

하워드 이사는 한국이 원한다면 외부무장시스템을 추가하는 것은 전혀 어려운 문제가 아니라 주장했다.

하지만, 일부 전문가들은 외부무장을 추가 시 F-35의 형상을 수정 해야한다 주장한다. 이들은 추가 성능테스트 등으로 인한 추가 비용이 발생하며 이에 대한 위험 부담을 한국이 피할 수 없게 될 거라 주장하고 있다.



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