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Key technical requirements to be tested on simulators in fighter jet purchase

All Headlines 16:56 June 13, 2012

SEOUL, June 13 (Yonhap) -- Evaluation of key technical requirements to pick a supplier for South Korea's next-generation combat fighter will be carried out through simulators as core parts of aircraft from three foreign bidders are still under development, Seoul officials said Wednesday.

The decision by the nation's state arms procurement agency, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), is fanning controversy over the fighter purchase project after one of the bidders, Lockheed Martin, reportedly refused to conduct performance tests with traditional flight testing.

Boeing's F-15 SE, Lockheed's F-35A and EADS Eurofighter are competing to win a huge deal worth upward of 10 trillion won (US$8.6 billion) to sell 60 combat fighters to South Korea, which will choose a supplier in October.

"There are some limited areas for the F-15 SE, Eurofighter and F-35A that cannot be tested through actual flight testing," said a senior DAPA official, citing delays in developments of their core parts such as their stealth components or radar systems.

"The limited areas will be tested on simulators," the official said on the condition of anonymity.

The official said, however, that the bidders would receive a low score during the evaluation test when they use simulators.

Industry watchers insist that South Korea should put off the fighter purchase project until the key components are fully developed, raising questions about credible tests.

On-site performance tests will be held this month for the F-35A, in August for the F-15 SE and in September for the Eurofighter, according to DAPA officials.

While Boeing and EADS agreed to carry out performance tests through actual flights with a Korean pilot on board, Lockheed refused to do so, saying the radar-evading warplane is not in service and still under development.

The flight-test schedule of the single-seat F-35 has been delayed, raising concerns over rising costs and that the aircraft may not be available until 2020.

South Korea has purchased 60 of Boeing's F-15 fighter jets since 2002 under the first two stages of the fighter modernization program, code-named "F-X."

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