By Andrea Shalal-Esa
DUBAI Nov 22 Lockheed Martin Corp on
Friday welcomed South Korea's plans to buy 40 F-35 fighter jets
and said it still aimed to build a military communications
satellite for Seoul and provide other technology transfers,
despite a cut in the number of jets to be ordered.
"We remain committed to our offset projects and I am
confident we can put together an agreement with the Korean
authorities that preserves the existing projects," said Randy
Howard, who headed Lockheed's South Korea F-35 campaign.
Howard said Lockheed was fully committed to working with
Korean industry on its KF-X project to design a new fighter
aircraft, just as it did on the T-50 trainer developed as part
of an offset package for an earlier F-16 purchase.
"We put a bunch of projects on the table and we're not
backing away," Howard told Reuters in a telephone interview.
"I'm confident we can find a way to preserve the projects that
have been offered."
South Korea's military chiefs on Friday decided to buy 40
F-35 stealth fighter jets settling a drawn-out process to beef
up the country's defences.
Lockheed spokesman Eric Schnaible said the company would
continue to work closely with the U.S. government to meet
Korea's Air Force requirements.
"Lockheed Martin is committed to meeting Korea's offset
requirements including support and technology transfer for
KF-X," he said.
He said the F-35's conventional takeoff and landing model,
configured with the final 3F software package that gives the jet
its full combat capability, was available to meet Korea's
requirement for initial deliveries of the planes in 2018.
Sources familiar with Lockheed's offset package said the
company would have to sit down with Korean officials to work out
details as part of finalising a fighter deal.
South Korea initially planned to buy 60 fighter jets in the
competition, but on Friday said it would initially buy 40 of the
stealthy F-35 fighters, which are designed to be nearly
invisible to enemy radar, and then open a competition for 20
more planes to other bidders.
Lockheed's offset package includes a program to build,
launch and place in orbit a new military communications
satellite that will be fully owned and operated by the South
Korean government, as well as all necessary control equipment
and technical training, said the sources, who were not
authorised to speak publicly.
To help Korea develop its new KF-X fighter, Lockheed said it
would provide hundreds of man hours of engineering expertise for
the KF-X fighter program, as well as hundreds of thousands of
pages of technical documentation from its F-16, F-35 and F-22
The company also offered to build a virtual cyber warfare
center to help South Korea develop its cyber training, tactics