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Don't Rashly Rush Adoption of Major Weapon Systems
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President Lee Myung-bak. His plan to import large-scale foreign weapons incurs criticisms.

A committee of experts under the National Assembly's National Defense Committee has begun putting the breaks on the Lee Myung-bak administration's rush to sign deals to adopt large-scale weapons systems like the third phase of the next-generation fighter project (F-X) next year, the last year of his term.

The gist of the report written by the committee is that the schedule being pushed for these projects is tight, unrealistic and unnecessary. In short, it pointed out that the government is rashly pushing weapon adoption plans without proper consideration.

Major weapon system adoption projects the government is currently tryinf to contract by the end of next year come to 13.7 trillion won, including 8.20 trillion won for the third phase of the F-X project; nearly 1.84 trillion won to select a new, large-scale attack helicopter (AHX); and 1.80 trillion won to upgrade the KF-16 fighter.

As the projects will take place in order, the money won't all go out at once, but it's still a lot of cash. When you consider that this year's defense budget is 31.4 trillion won, you can see just how much money this is.

Despite this, the government's plans are basically a rule of thumb. For example, let's look at the next-generation fighter project, the most controversial one.

Air Force officials themselves confess that it often takes over a year to negotiate the offsets and technology transfer conditions. In fact, the first phase of the project took 27 months, and the second phase took 13 months.

Moreover, all sorts of flaws are being revealed during the test flights of the leading contender for the project, the United States' Lockheed Martin F-35. Accordingly, some even observe that the government may sign an irregular contract to adopt the fighter next year.

There is no consensus on the need for the attack chopper project, pushed by the Army to give it deep anti-armor capabilities and the capacity to conduct operations against enemy special operation units at sea.

The experts committee expressed skepticism about the project itself, noting global trends and alternative means such as air-to-surface missiles and smaller armed helicopters.

In particular, the adoption cost submitted by the Ministry of Defense is not even half of the actual sales cost over the last three years. Even if a deal to adopt the choppers were signed, reconsideration would be unavoidable due to the Enforcement Decree of the National Finance Act. The same goes for the high-altitude unmanned reconnaissance vehicle project.

The government is saying it began pushing these weapon adoption plans, which had been put on the back burner due to budget shortfalls, due to the sinking of the Cheonan and the shelling of Yeonpyeong Island.

This explanation is weak, however. The government's mission is to systemically provide the weapons needed from a national interest perspective after a thorough verification. You can't rationalize a rushed adoption of a glut of weapon systems citing the Cheonan and Yeonpyeong Island as reasons for doing so.

The commissions resulting from the adoption of weapons are huge. This is why all sorts of "scandals" and "-gates" follow every weapon adoption project.

There are already loud voices expressing concern that it's already possible the Lee administration's push to sign these weapon deals could lead to scandal.

Even if just now, the government needs to meticulously reconsider its weapon adoption plans in total and, if possible, leave the decision to the next administration. (Editorial, The Kyunghyang Daily News. December 7, 2011)

Copyright The Kyunghyang Shinmun. All rights reserved. Reproduction and redistribution without permission absolutely prohibited.

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