Tuesday, September 24, 2013

South Korea changes the rules after the game is won.


Goldilocks be damned.  Too expensive, not enough two-seat models, not stealthy enough.
In a move not unlike an elementary school recess game of "soccer tag", South Korea has declared the unofficial winner of its K-X competition, the F-15SE, has now been disqualified for not following rules that weren't agreed upon at the start of the game.

As previously reported here, South Korea's K-X competition between the F-35A Lightning II, Eurofighter Typhoon, and F-15SE "Silent Eagle"was for 60 jet fighters to replace aging F-4s and F-5s. A hard and fast budget of 8.3 trillion won (US$7.2 billion) was set.  The F-35, in which the unit cost is still very much in flux, was the first eliminated. It could not be delivered at a fixed price due to U.S. foreign military sales regulations.

Shortly after, the Eurofighter Typhoon, very much the dark horse of the competition due to close S. Korean and U.S. ties, was eliminated.  Eurofighter's bid, while under budget, was dismissed because it didn't include enough two-seater models in its offer.  South Korea wanted 15, Eurofighter's bid only included 6.  According to Eurofighter, it was led to believe that S. Korea's wish for 15 two-seat models was merely preference, not a requirement.  Easy to believe considering that the F-35 does not even offer a two-seat model.
Winner?  Not so fast...

With the F-35 and Typhoon eliminated, the Silent Eagle became the de facto winner.  It certainly seemed like a natural fit, as South Korea already operates the similar F-15K "Slam Eagle", and the similarities between the two models would likely result in future cost savings.

But now, the F-15SE is being dropped by South Korea on the basis that it is not stealthy enough.  This means a new competition, with a new budget, and possibly a new set of requirements, will emerge.



Of course, some serious questions will be asked.


  • Was the Silent Eagle disqualified because the higher ups at the ROKAF really, really want the F-35 instead?  
  • If the Typhoon was eliminated because it couldn't get enough two-seat models included under budget, why does the single-seat only F-35 bid not have to include any?
  • Is the ROKAF placing too much value on stealth?
  • What will the political ramifications be for breaking the budget?
  • How long is this F-X competition going to on for?

2 comments:

  1. All that is just... amazing!

    Once again, South Korea change the rules at the end of the game. US power in this country seems... limitless! In my opinion, that's crystal clear : USA wasn't ready to accept F35 failure againt a claimed inferior jet, even an american one. This would probably have cast an embarassing shadow on the JSF. Not acceptable.

    The "stealth" argument (backed by what?) against F-15SE is very useful in this regard because Boeing cannot do anything else to offer a stealthier F-15SE and cannot seriously bid for the next selection process. So, that only leaves the Eurofighter, which is unfortunately not american, and F35 : job done.

    Until the next major move, I'm telling you : bet on the F35.

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  2. Wow, a little bit shocked. It makes sense though that South Korea wants this light bomber with stealth capabilities considering it may need to take out nukes in the North. I wonder though, if someone (South Korea, Europe, maybe SAAB) are going to make a "cheap" stealth fighter to supplement the F35. 37(?) for the Dutch, the Koreans more or less may have to drop there numbers, only possibly 20 for Denmark, no one it seems may be able to field a credible force of planes.


    This gets crazier by the day. It will be interesting how the Harper government will try and frame a possible purchase for Canada.....

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