Posted : 2012-03-06 16:36
Updated : 2012-03-06 16:36

Seoul fears delivery delays of F-35 jets

F-35 fighter jet

Lockheed Martin’s fighter program encountering development delays, cost overruns

By Lee Tae-hoon

Chances are high for the government to pick the F-35 fighter jet as the mainstay of the Air Force later this year, but it is doubtful whether the new aircraft can be delivered to Korea as promised from 2016.

Seoul is expected to announce the winner of the bidding for its next-generation fighter acquisition project in October this year in line with its plan to introduce 10 advanced jets in 2016 and 2017, respectively, and the remaining 40 by 2020.

“Lockheed Martin officials recently informed us that the F-35 development and testing is progressing faster than anticipated and that they are confident of delivering fully operational fighter jets by 2016,” a senior official of the state-run Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said Tuesday.

“But it is dubious whether their claims can be accepted as the F-35 program, which is still in the early stage of flight testing, continues to encounter development delays and cost overruns.”

Lockheed Martin, which has proposed to sell F-35s, is competing with its U.S. rival Boeing and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) for the 8.29 trillion won ($7.3 billion) deal.

Another DAPA official pointed out that Korea will face great difficulties in imposing any significant penalty even if Lockheed Martin fails to deliver its latest stealth jets on time.

“Both Lockheed Martin and Boeing intend to sell their aircraft to Korea through the Foreign Military Sales program (FMS), which is often considered an unfair trade practice. It will leave little room for Seoul to punish them over delivery delays,” he said.

“Given that the FMS program is a contract based on trust between the U.S. government and another nation, no one has ever succeeded in negotiating with the Pentagon on a strict penalty for delays.”

The DAPA official said his agency plans to ask the U.S. government to pay up to 10 percent of the contract price as compensation for delivery delays, but it remains doubtful whether the Pentagon will agree to this.

“As it is unlikely for the U.S. government to comply with DAPA’s demand, it is also mulling ways to give lower marks to Lockheed Martin during the test and evaluation process later this year unless it can dispel mounting concerns over production delays,” he said.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Concurrency Quick Look Review published on Nov. 29 last year concluded that U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin will only be able to start producing a fully operational version of the F-35 in 2017.

“The program was not making sufficient progress toward meeting operational effectiveness criteria for the helmet mounted display, night vision capability, aircraft handling characteristics, and certain classified issues,” the Pentagon report said.

“The system was not on track to meet certain suitability requirements, including thermal management, the performance of the Autonomous Logistics Information System (ALIS), and aircraft material repair times.”

According to Aviation Week, Canada’s F-35 project manager said, although the country plans to purchase F-35s in 2014, and take delivery in 2016, the first aircraft will not arrive until 2019 and initial operation capability is not expected before 2020.
관련 한글 기사

F-35 선정시 지체상금 못 받아

한국 공군의 차세대 전투기 3차 사업(FX-3)에서 가장 유력한 기종으로 꼽히고 있는 록히드마틴사의 F-35 전투기가 선정될 경우 납품에 지연이 발생되어도 이에 따른 손해배상을 청구하기 힘들 것이라는 주장이 6일 제기되었다.

FX 3차 사업의 요구조건 중 하나는 2016년과 2017년 각각 10대씩 납품하기 시작해 2020년까지 총 60대의 납품을 완료하는 것인데 “F-35을 선정할 경우 개발지연으로 인해 도입일정에 차질이 불가피 할 것” 이라고 복수의 관계자들이 주장했다.

한 방사청 관계자는 F-35의 경우 보잉사의 F-15 전투기와 함께 한국에 대외군사판매 (FMS) 방식으로 입찰에 참여할 방침인데 FMS 방식으로 할 경우 “미정부대 우리 국방부와의 계약이 되어 버려 사실상 지체보상금을 요구하기 어렵게 된다”고 말했다.

그는 “상용구매와는 달리 FMS 구매는 양국이 신뢰를 바탕으로 거래하는 것인데 불평등 거래라고도 불린다” 며 방사청이 협상과정에서 “미정부에 납품지연시 손해배상을 해줄 것을 요구는 해 보겠지만 미정부가 한국의 요구를 들어 줄 것인지에 대해서는 회의적”이라고 말했다.

그는 미정부가 FMS 계약으로 인해 지체상금을 낸 전례는 없는 것을 알지만 FX 3차 사업의 경우 F-35지연에 대한 우려가 큰 만큼 사업금액의 최대 10%까지 손해배상 청구 할 수 있는 방안을 미정부에 검토해 줄 것을 요청하는 방안을 검토해 볼 것이라 밝혔다.

록히드마틴사는 최근 시험비행 일정이 계획보다 앞서나가는 등 F-35 개발이 순조롭게 진행이 되고 있어 한국 공군이 요구하는 2016년 납기일정을 맞출 수 있다고 최근 방사청에 밝히기는 했지만 “이는 업체의 주장일 뿐”이라며 철저한 검증을 하겠다고 한 방사청 관계자는 밝혔다.

미 국방부 보고서에 의하면 F-35의 외부무장이 가능한 버전인 블록3F'는 2017년부터 생산될 예정이다.

캐나다의 F-35 프로그램 관계자에 의하면 캐나다는 2014년 F-35를 구매하고 2016년에 인도 받을 예정이나 첫 F-35를 양도 받기까지는 2019년이나 되야 가능 할 것이며 초도작전능력을 갖춘 F-35는 2020년이나 되야 받을 수 있게 될 것이라 전망하고 있다고 미국의 항공지 '에비에이션위크'(Aviation Week)가 보도한 적이 있다.

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