[EDITORIALS]F-X lands, bumpily

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[EDITORIALS]F-X lands, bumpily

The government finally selected Boeing's F-15K as the nation's next generation fighter jet. The procurement program will cost astronomical amounts and the model, once decided, will be the core of the South Korean Air Force's air defense power for the next 30 years. Because the project was Seoul's first ever international bidding in a procurement program, the world awaited the selection with much attention.

It is regrettable that the two-year selection process raised so many doubts and disputes. Before signing the main contract, the government should put out its best effort to negotiate with Boeing on the price, technology transfer and offset package, because those elements were known to be less attractive than what was offered by Boeing's competitor. Seoul should make sure that Washington will guarantee the supply of components after the model goes out of production. Similarly, Washington should give Seoul its assurances on compensation by the manufacturer for defects.

Washington and Boeing should remember that there are arguments in Korea protesting the selection of the F-15K. The F-15Ks are scheduled to retire from the battlefront after 2030, indicating that the model will one day be outdated. Doubts have mounted that Seoul held the international bidding for the sake of formality, although Seoul had already decided on the F-15K under pressure by Washington. Some said that France's Rafale outshined the F-15K in terms of price and performance.

Those arguments, mixed with other issues aimed at Washington, amplified growing anti-American sentiment here. The U.S. government and Boeing should not ignore this situation, and should cooperate to improve their shortcomings in the F-X deal when signing the main contract. Boeing, in particular, should reconsider its offered price of 5.8 trillion won ($4.4 billion). General Electric's engines have been selected for F-15Ks, although they were never used in the F-15 models. Seoul should check on safety and review the interoperability of F-15Ks and F-16s. Furthermore, Seoul should pay special attention to the failed bidders and their governments in order to avoid diplomatic conflicts.
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