SEOUL, South Korea --- Despite the celebrated rollout of the first F-35 Lightning II fighter jet for the South Korean Air Force last month, the fifth-generation stealth aircraft is not widely welcomed by the Seoul government.
The contract of procuring 40 F-35As signed under the former Park Geun-hye administration has been under intensive investigation with regard to possible influence-peddling over the Lockheed Martin-built multirole fighter’s selection process and price lobbying.
The Board of Audit and Inspection of Korea, or BAI, has widened its probe against the F-35 selection from Seoul’s 2014 F-X III competition, according to defense sources.
“The BAI inspection over the F-35 purchase was launched late last year, and the inspection has been widened since January,” Kang Hwan-seok, spokesman of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, or DAPA, told Defense News. The spokesman declined to elaborate on the contents of the probe.
According to Defense Ministry officials, the state watchdog recently summoned former defense chiefs, including Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin and DAPA Commissioner Lee Yong-geol, to probe doubts regarding the F-35 selection process.
The inspection is focused on determining why the DAPA overturned its original decision of choosing Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle as the preferred bidder, and why the agency quietly changed the Foreign Military Sales-based variable price contract to a fixed one. (end of excerpt)
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