The decision on which manufacturer may deliver four in-flight refuelling aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) will not be taken this year, according to South Korean media including The Korea Herald.
While negotiations have been going on ever since March, there is yet no final deal in sight on the detailed price arrangements since none of the three bidders seems to meet industrial compensation that Korea wants. Those so-called offset agreements might mean work for Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) or other partners, or sharing of (some) technology with more business in mind.
The three competitors for the quartet of RoKAF tankers are the Airbus A330 MRTT (called KC-30A by the Royal Australian Air Force and Voyager by the RAF), the Boeing KC-46 Pegasus and the Israel Aircraft Industries which offers refurbished second hand aircraft. If Seoul chooses either Boeing or IAI the Koreans will get a tanker based on the 767 airliner.
Leaving politics out and focusing only on the technical and operational side of things Airbus in theory has the best cards on the table, with the A330 MRTT already in the air with the Royal Air Force, Royal Australian Air Force, the United Arab Emirates Air Force, the Royal Saudi Air Force and ordered by the air forces of Singapore, Qatar, France and wanted by India and Spain as well.
The Boeing KC-46A is still in the construction phase with loads of possible problems during the development still ahead. However, with the US armed forces co-operating closely with the South Korean defence, the politics might be critical in the decision. The US Air Force said earlier this November it “still expects Boeing to meet the August 2017 target for delivering 18 new KC-46As” out of an expected total purchase plan of 179 aircraft. When these statements are made most of the time it means delays in the program with the buyer adding pressure to the seller, while seeming confident that everything will be okay.
The IAI solution will be the most economical one, as the second hand 767 solution of the Israelis will be about half the price of a new aircraft. Time will tell which business the South Korean leadership has in mind.
© 2014 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger