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EADS open to S. Korea's split purchase of Eurofighters with F-35s

2013/12/11 11:58

By Kim Eun-jung

SEOUL, Dec. 11 (Yonhap) -- The European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) said Wednesday it is open to South Korea buying a combination of Lockheed Martin's F-35s and Eurofighters, lowering its expectations in a bid to capture part of Seoul's fighter jet project.

Seoul had initially planned to buy 60 combat jets beginning in 2017, but in September it voted down Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle -- the only bid within the 8.3 trillion won (US$7.2 billion) budget -- due to its relatively weak stealth features.

Last month, the Joint Chiefs of Staff announced its decision to buy 40 stealth jets first and acquire additional warplanes later, depending on the military requirements and the changing security environment.

Eurofighter Typhoon by EADS on display. (Yonhap file photo)

Despite South Korea's recent decision, the European aerospace and defense giant said it remains committed to offering the reduced number of jets as early as 2017 to replace the aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.

"Although we believe that buying 60 Eurofighter Typhoons would provide the Republic of Korea with the best deterrence and with the best overall package, we do also see the advantages of a split procurement of Eurofighters and F-35s, combining the benefits of both programs," Peter Maute, senior vice president of Eurofighter sales at EADS Cassidian, said in a press briefing in Seoul.

Maute said this would be in line with the approach of some future F-35 users, who would operate the stealth jets along with other aircraft in a specialized role.

He claimed the U.S. has developed the F-22 as a "dominant air superiority fighter" and plans to use the F-35 mainly for "strike missions," noting nations like the U.K. and Italy will operate the F-35 in a specialized role along with the Eurofighter.

The EADS official said the split purchase will give South Korea more flexibility when operating the existing fleet until the F-35s, which is still in development, become operationally mature.

"As the Eurofighter Typhoon is a fully stabilized program, it is not subject to unexpected cost escalations or delays," Maute said.

The EADS also highlighted its $2 billion investment offer to South Korea's indigenous fighter development program, promising to cooperate with local contractors to launch the program and create more jobs in South Korea's aerospace and defense sector.

"With such a 'split procurement' concept with 40 Eurofighter aircraft and 20 F-35, we would still be able to deliver the principles of our technology transfer and industrial participation package," he said.

If preferred, Maute said a government-to-government framework can be established for the procurement of the Eurofighter. He said four prime ministers of the four Eurofighter partner Nations -- Germany, Italy, Spain and Britain -- have stated their full commitment to support the program.

ejkim@yna.co.kr

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