Navy accused of filing false report for chopper

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Navy accused of filing false report for chopper

The Navy is suspected of systemically conducting a false assessment for a helicopter model in drawing up a contract to purchase up-to-date choppers from an Anglo-Italian manufacturer.

A joint governmental investigation team tasked with uncovering irregularities in the defense industry announced Thursday that it had detained two reserve officers, Captain Lim, 51, and Commander Hwang, 43, and an active officer, Captain Shin, 42, on suspicions of filing a false assessment report to purchase AW-159 Wildcat helicopters.

The Wildcat, produced by AgustaWestland, was the selected model to replace Korea’s Lynx helicopters, also produced by the same company, over the Sikorsky SH-60 Seahawk in January 2013.

North Korea’s torpedoing of the Cheonan warship, an incident that killed 46 sailors in 2010, prompted the project to replace the country’s Lynx helicopters.

The military plans to buy eight of them by next year and is considering self-developing 12 more. A total of 1.3 trillion won ($1.19 billion) was set aside for the new maritime operation choppers.

According to investigators, the three men were in charge of testing candidate products from August to November 2012. The team suspects they completed the test report for the Wildcat before the helicopter had even been manufactured.

Given that the military was considering purchasing maritime operation helicopters from a foreign country and that such vehicles are considered complex weapon systems, the officers were required to conduct a product test.

However, investigators found that the Navy officers wrote the report only after testing a similar Army chopper with added weight attached and watching simulator results for completely different models, the team said.

According to documents submitted by AgustaWestland, the duration of the flight and the torpedo capacity of the Wildcats hardly meet the required operational characteristics suggested by the Korean military. The manufacturer was required to present further data but did not respond, the investigation team said.

The three Navy officers have reportedly insisted that they drew up the false report upon orders from their superiors.

The investigators added that they are currently detaining three other Navy officers, including a reserve rear admiral (upper half) surnamed Kim, 59, for their involvement in the case.

BY JEONG HYUK-JUN And KIM BONG-MOON [kim.bongmoon@joongang.co.kr]

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