Top arms procurement officer rapped for misspeaking on F-35
The state-run arms procurement agency is facing mounting criticism over its chief’s erroneous remarks about the adoption of simulation tests by Japan and Israel, in place of actual test flights, during the evaluation of Lockheed Martin’s F-35 fighter jet.
In response to the controversy of allowing a flight simulation test for evaluation of the F-35, Noh Dae-lae, head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), had maintained that this should not be an issue since Japan and Israel also adopted the virtual test for the fifth-generation jet.
It was, however, found that the two countries made up their mind to buy F-35s neither after a simulation test, nor test flights as two of the closest allies of the United States evaluated the single-seat, single-engine stealth plane under development based on paperwork.
“DAPA commissioner Noh was upset as he and his staff belatedly found out yesterday that Japan and Israel did not carry out a simulation test before deciding on the purchase of F-35s,” a senior official at the acquisition agency said Thursday. “We regret giving misleading information to the public.”
According to sources, Japanese evaluators had an opportunity to check the performance of the F-35 by using simulators both in Japan and the United States, but their simulation flights were not a part of an official evaluation for the fighter jet program.
“The results of their simulation flights were not reflected in the outcome of Japan’s fighter jet selection,” a military source said.
Boeing and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, which are also bidding for Seoul’s plan to buy 60 advanced multi-role fighters, have agreed to carry out performance tests through actual flights with a Korean pilot on board, though the former will use a current F-15 model.
Lockheed has thus far refused to do so, saying it would be difficult for the U.S. government to allow a Korean pilot to fly the F-35, which is not in service.
“Only F-35 pilots can fly it since the new jet is still under development,” a DAPA official said.
He noted that DAPA has asked the U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin to conduct performance tests with simulators and a Korean pilot on board a different fighter jet tracking the F-35.
“There are some limited areas for the F-15 SE, Eurofighter and F-35A that cannot be tested through actual flight testing,” a DAPA spokesman said, noting that simulator tests will be required for all three competitors.
“The limited areas will be tested on simulators.”
The official said, however, that the bidders would receive a low score during the evaluation test when they use simulators.