[EDITORIALS]All over but the shouting?The Ministry of National Defense announced that Boeing's F-15K and the French-made Dassault's Rafale led two other bidders in the competition to select new fighter jets. There was less than a 3 percent difference in the evaluation of the two front-runners, the ministry said, implying that the F-15K is the de facto winner. Although a new study of the two will begin soon, the new evaluation will be a procedure undertaken only for the sake of formality. Despite its outstanding performance in the first screening process, France's Dassault will probably lose in the second stage of the selection because the new evaluation criteria are drawn up to favor Boeing, taking into account the U.S.-South Korea alliance. France, as well as some civic groups here, have criticized the competition as unfair, foreshadowing some serious future fallout.
Since the government will spend an astronomical amount of money on this project, dealing with international arms salesmen and powerful government support, the fact that disputes have erupted is not surprising. It is up to the government to manage the complaints; the government should provide clear and convincing explanations about its selection. The National Defense Ministry argues that its evaluation has been transparent, but there have been suspicions that the ministry revised the evaluation criteria in the middle of the project in order to favor the F-15K. The government should also put those suspicions to rest.
At the same time, the government should conclude the deal with a contract that will benefit the nation's interests. The U.S. government and Boeing should show good faith. Dassault offered to transfer 100 percent of its core technology, and Boeing should remember that. Boeing failed to meet the requirement of the off-set package, set at 70 percent of the contract price. The government should make sure that that condition is fulfilled in order to expedite its Korean fighter jet development project, scheduled to begin in 2015.
When drawing up a formal contract, the government should detail all terms about compensation for possible defects that may surface after Boeing delivers the warplanes. The government should make certain that the supply program for F-15K parts is in order to prepare for the day when spares may be hard to find.