Korea issuing final proposal in IAF deal

Deal is for some 30 training aircraft valued at over $1 billion; South Korean ambassador tells the 'Post' expectations for bid are high.

By
January 20, 2012 01:58
2 minute read.
T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jet

T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jet 311 (R). (photo credit: Tim Chong/Reuters)

 
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Israeli defense companies stand to gain from billions of dollars in contracts with South Korea which recently increased its defense budget to $30 billion a year, Korea’s ambassador to Israel Ilsoo Kim said on Thursday.

Kim spoke to The Jerusalem Post as the South Korean government was putting the final touches on an industrial cooperation package it is offering Israel in a bid to get the Defense Ministry to select Korean Aerospace Industries’ (KAI’s) T-50 Golden Eagle as its next advanced fighter trainer.

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The Defense Ministry has given the Koreans until the end of the month to submit their final proposal which is expected to reach over $1.5 billion in industrial cooperation for Israeli defense contractors.

The proposals are expected to arrive in Tel Aviv by the beginning of next week.

Competing against the T-50 is Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi M- 346 Master, which earlier this week received the Israel Air Force’s recommendation. The competition has received a great deal of media attention due to claims by KAI that Italy has received preferred treatment throughout the tender.

Kim said that Korea had high expectations to win the tender and “if they are not met, there will be natural disappointment.”

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The deal is for about 30 aircraft – valued at just over $1 billion – which the IAF plans to use to replace its aging fleet of A-4 Skyhawks, which are currently used to train cadets in their advanced pilot training.

“Korea is spending $30 billion a year in defense and we have to upgrade our capabilities considering the changes around us,” Kim said in a hint to Israel regarding the size of deals it can potentially gain from if the T-50 is selected by the Defense Ministry.

Korea has found support among leading Israeli defense companies which are lobbying the Defense Ministry to select the T-50 due to the potential contracts they stand to win in return from Seoul.

The Korean military is interested, for example, in purchasing the Iron Dome counter-rocket defense system, in upgrades for its combat aircraft, in new drones, anti-tank missiles and in new command-and-control systems.

Defense Ministry officials said Thursday that despite the IAF recommendation to purchase the Italian plane, the deal was far from over. The officials said that ministry’s procurement department was scheduled to submit its recommendation to Dir.-Gen.

Udi Shani in early February and that a final decision would be made shortly after.

“Negotiations are still ongoing with the sides,” a senior defense official said. “The Defense Ministry is working to obtain the greatest deal for Israel and the decision will be based on a variety of variables.”

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