Friday, August 12, 2011

PAK-FA/T-50 & South Korea

by Konstantin Bogdanov

What's behind the attempt to include Seoul in the number of applicants for a place in Russian Air Force fighter jet T-50? What are the chances of our fifth-generation machines, and in what form it could get to the South Korean armed squadrons?

The domestic aviation industry are predicting the impending struggle in the new export tender.According to newspaper The Korea Times, a leading Russian manufacturer of combat aircraft -  "Sukhoi" expressed a desire to participate in the competition to supply fighters for the Air Forces of the Republic of Korea, suggesting T-50, developed in the framework of the PAK FA.

Citing Colonel Bu Zhong Song, employee DAPA (Defense Supply Management), the South Korean publication lists the major competitors to win the future competition. This includes Lockheed F-35 Lightning II, Boing F-15SE Silent Eagle and the consortium Typhoon Eurofighter. These rivals and have to play the grand prize - 60 combat aircraft to the amount of 7.86 billion dollars.

A little earlier DAPA spread information that some simplified conditions of the tender to encourage the participation in it as much as possible players.

Longtime tricks

Korean competition with a straightforward name FX has dragged on for almost 10 years, and if you take the first attempts to formulate requirements for the modernization of combat aviation, and more. The ultimate goal of the tender was complete decommissioning of obsolete military vehicles of U.S. production: F-4E Phantom II and F-5E / F Tiger II.

However, all the maneuvers of the South Koreans at the tender amounted in effect to the attempts to dislodge from its traditional allies (Americans) as possible to the more modern version of the F-15. For this case connected to a galaxy of potential contestants alleged, among which were listed the same "Typhoon", French "Rafale" and even the Russian Su-35 - still in the "old form" and not bought by our military department.

The result in principle was achieved in two stages of this contest: the Air Force in South Korea have ordered 60 machines F-15K Slam Eagle (upgraded version of the F-15E Strike Eagle), about fifty of them have already been received, and the rest will reach  within the 2011-2012 . I must say that the planes of the second stage (21 units) have been upgraded, for example, supplied with much more diverse set of weapons grade "air-to-earth." But at the same time changed the engine: the place of General Electric F110 took the Pratt & Whittney F100 - unified with the engines already available to the South Korean Air Force fighter KF-16C / D.

Now we try to buy another 40 to 60 (various sources), all machines within the same product to get rid of the aging of the American aircraft industry. However, what problem can be solved, starting from the announced list of candidates?

You really decide

The published short list of technology for the tender causes, putting it mildly, some questions. First, it is unclear what kind of plane, in fact, needed to Seoul to expand because the conditions of competition.

Clean, but have not yet reached the operational readiness of heavy warfighter PAK-FA. Value added (on this subject there are a lot of questions from the experts), but also the light option did not reach its readiness F-35. The ready options are European "Typhoon", which has no modern avionics, such as radar AFAR. And the American heavy leader, nicknamed "Silent Eagle", referring to the fourth generation with embedded elements of stealth and advanced avionics.

Given the multistage genesis of the tender, it is clear that the Korean Air Force needed a heavy multi-purpose aircraft of "4 + / 4 + +", fully equipped including all necessary to attack ground and sea targets.Why in these circumstances, to announce an interest in a fifth-generation fighter, is difficult to understand.

The likely answer can be offered, but it is unlikely he will like other bidders, in addition to traditional frequent visitor to "Boeing." Seoul again traded for technology transfer on the line F-15. And the appearance among the contestants of the modern "Silent Eagle" alludes to this very new interpretation of the qualifying stage for the South Korean side.

Recently, however, there were also other factors influencing the decision-making leadership of the Republic of Korea. The third phase FX program a few years left without the promised funding. What causes such a sudden attack of extravagance?

These are obvious. In addition to the unpleasant neighbor to the north in the face of North Korea, Seoul has to take into account the dynamics of rearmament of China. This winter, Beijing has demonstrated a prototype of a flying platform of its own fifth-generation J-20; this somewhat destroyed the potential balance of the Air Force in the region..

Naturally, in such a background, South Korea could easily take care of such equipment and techniques of their own air force. The more so because the Chinese are not alone: ​​the Japanese were, it seems aimed at American F-35, once to get the F-22 did not work, but at the same time continue stubbornly to pull the project ATD-X, which grew out of NorthCorp YF-23 design which was proposed as a prototype for the same F-22 and rejects in favor of the project by Lockheed.

However, the fifth generation is expensive (to buy 60 F-35 is less than eight billion dollars, will be very problematic), and F-15 and so constitute a fair share of military aircraft of Seoul. Therefore, buying "Silent Eagle" still seems to be more preferable not only because of the price, but also for reasons of economy in operation and maintenance.

Buying as a challenge

But let us renounce the period and the analysis of the pragmatic maneuvers of Korean military. Let us assume that our aircraft builders still be able to try their luck in the Land of Morning Calm.

The first thing to understand what kind of equipment Russia can put out to tender, if such intention at all mature. Of course, the supply to South Korea T-50 and can be no question under any circumstances.This plane is too new for the Russian Air Force, so the gross shipment of six dozen promising fighters to the Seoul (even if for a moment assume that Moscow will go on this crazy tender and win it) is pure fantasy.

As an example, similar enough to remember the Americans, who for 10 years persistently blocked any proposals for the supply of heavy overseas F-22 Raptor, offering as a response to "adapt" to the export version of the lighter F-35 (which, however, has not yet reached commercial status).While countries were interested in the F-22 (such as Japan, Israel, Australia and South Korea is the same), most likely prepared to make a very attractive financial offer to acquire the aircraft.

That's why the most that should be expected South Koreans - are variations on the theme of the project FGFA - export version of T-50, now being developed jointly with the Indians. The aircraft will be based on the one hand, with the exception of a number of solutions and technology that the Russian military still considered an exclusive national secrets, but on the other - with wide-board integration of production systems of third countries (probably by analogy with the projects of modernization of the Su-30, mainly by French and Israeli).

By the way, here one cannot fail to note one obvious consideration of the region of Eurasian geopolitics. Appearance in Seoul, the fifth generation aviation complex means a challenge not only to Pyongyang, but for Beijing, which  perfectly suited Delhi, seriously anxious Chinese efforts to continue the blockade of the Indian sphere of influence.

The strategy of "strings of pearls" in order to deploy a chain of military bases and strongholds of the Celestial Empire in the Indian Ocean and in Pakistan and East Africa, disturbs India and needs the after all diluting reaction. Therefore, if the Indians has a hand to lobby for the possible supply of FGFA in South Korea, this is a simple and easy explanation.


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