by Dereck Lammers
Political tensions have increased among countries, adding the pressure to enhance their military defense against possible attacks and to deter any strikes. The East Asian region has been the center of recent tension, especially in the Korean Peninsula. North Korea has threatened their southern counterparts in what many see it as a bellicose menace. South Korean has vowed to protect their territory by augmenting their security with sophisticated protection to keep their citizens safe from any possible strike. Seoul, currently the 4thmost populous city in the world, sits right near the border with North Korea. If North Korea decides to attack, it would be a matter of minutes before it could impact South Korea’s capital. One of the biggest policies by the recent-elected president Park Geun-hye is to protect South Korea, especially against their northern neighbors. South Korea’s army is very strong
yet their fleet is aging. Their current F-4s and F-5s fighter jets are considered old compared to the new, fifth-generation stealth fighters
that have been released. Although the need for an improved air force is clearly visible and needed after provocations from North Korea, how is South Korea carrying this process?
United States has the answer. Their two main companies providing stealth equipment, jets and defensive components to the Pentagon as well as many foreign air forces are competing to win a contract to provide their stealth technology to the South Koreans. Lockheed Martin, with their headquarters located in Bethesda, Maryland, currently provides the Pentagon with their newest fleet of stealth jet fighters in their F-35s to protect the American soil. The F-35s are mostly funded by the US with additional funding from partners such as NATO members or close US allies. Although seen as expensive compared to the alternatives, these fighter jets possess handsome characteristics to dominate the air, such as reaching Mach 1.6 while also withstanding 9 g (gravitational scale of pressure) while in the air. The F-35 is condition to equip medium and long range missiles, including nuclear bombs. Despite these nice amenities, the South Korean government has deemed them as “too expensive for their budget”. The next alternative are the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, but experts have branded this stealth fighter as having their “electronic warfare equipment left visible to adversaries”. The third option, although really out of the picture would be the Typhoon model from Eurofighter, a consortium of 3 big companies with BAE Systems being their biggest one. South Korea’s specific requirements are making the selection process difficult to finalize. Even though all these stealth fighters possess great power, agility and speed, none of them have won the contract, but that might change very soon.
Lockheed Martin has given the South Koreans the flexibility to offer them the newest software model, the 3F, to all their stealth fighters if they sign a contract to start deliver by 2017. The new software might be the final step to make the South Korean government accept and go with the American company since this software will facilitate “carrying a full load of weapons” which was not available with the previous software, the 2F. Countries, such as Japan, Netherlands, Italy, Norway, Australia and Singapore have already penned a contract for these hi-tech jets which shows the approval level of these new breed of stealth jets for aerial control. This shows the resiliency of a company trying to win a huge contract and accommodate the needs of the client during a worldwide economic recession. Signing a contract with the South Korean government would mean millions of revenue and millions paid to the U.S economy in terms of taxes and labor. If the contract is signed, Lockheed Martin is set to make $7.7 billion, which according to the South Korean law it is the maximum that that the government can spend on fighter jets. Although the budget is set, speculations have comed up whether Lockheed Martin would lower the price
to accommodate the 60 new orders of planes that the South Koreans want to get. Lockheed is currently working with the Pentagon building the F-35s so it would not be a surprise if they do something to finalize this contract to bring the money home. It will only take a matter of minutes for the South Koreans to react from a possible attack from the neighbors North Korea so having a strong aerial fleet to protect their territory is an imperative task to accomplish. The Pentagon, a partner of Lockheed Martin, has definitely modified the initial showdown of the F-35s against the competition by adding the 3F software to stand out as the clear winners for this important contract which brings the question: Is it safe for the United States to provide the same technology that they possess to foreign countries to obtain revenue in return?
This post reflects the author’s personal opinions, not the opinions of Arizona Model United Nations.