Blue House looks into failed jet deal

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Blue House looks into failed jet deal

The Blue House launched a probe into the Defense Ministry’s procurement for the $6.8 billion project codenamed KF-X, ordering the procurement authorities to hand over documents and data.

According to a senior member of the ruling Saenuri Party, the presidential office opened an investigation into the KF-X project under which 120 indigenous jets are to be built by 2025.

“The presidential civil office instructed the procurement agency to submit relevant documents and is planning to bring in officials involved in the project for questioning in coming days,” the politician said on the condition of anonymity.

The KF-X program made headlines earlier this week when it was revealed that U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin has failed to get export licenses for four essential technologies for fighter jets due to Washington’s policy of safeguarding military technologies.

The technologies were a major part of the purchase and were going to enable Korea to build its own next-generation fighter jet, the KF-X, also known as the Boramae Project.

The key technologies are an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar system, infrared search and track (IRST) system, electro-optical tracking system and remote control jammer technology.

Questions are now being raised about how officials at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) handled the project.

The DAPA signed a memorandum of understanding with Lockheed Martin on the transfer of 25 technologies and the provision of 40 F-35As last September and selected the state-funded Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in April as a preferred bidder for the expensive procurement undertaking.

But after it was reported that Seoul was denied four key technologies, doubts over feasibility of the project emerged, which pushed the Blue House to open an investigation.

Questions were compounded Friday when DAPA chief Chang Myoung-jin told reporters he did not recall briefing the presidential office on Lockheed Martin’s refusal to transfer the four technologies.

It remains unclear whether the Blue House had been aware of the technology transfer issue until this week, and that raised even more questions about the deal.

BY KANG JIN-KYU, SHIN YONG-HO [kang.jinkyu@joongang.co.kr]

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