Boeing is the only company I know of as a former defense correspondent that offered journalists free business-class plane tickets and free passes to a luxurious strip club in the United States.
I still vividly recall a reporter and good friend of mine, pleading me to go back to our fancy Boeing-sponsored hotel rooms in Mesa, Arizona, when we were brought to a cabaret with topless girls.
A defense industry source once told me that the lavish provision of sexual entertainment along with free food, booze, hotels and flights to journalists was a key factor in Boeing’s winning Korea’s two previous fighter-jet acquisition programs.
Besides all these unethical business practices, there are plenty of other reasons to eliminate Boeing from the FX-III competition, under which Korea planned to acquire 60 advanced fighter aircraft with a budget of 8.3 trillion won ($7.5 billion).
First, it lied to the Korean people that it would offer them stealth technology. Boeing pledged to provide a list of stealth technologies when it successfully sold its 60 F-15Ks to Korea but has yet to fulfill its promises.
Second, it lied to us in saying it would undertake a major retrofit of its F-15 fighter jets to improve the effectiveness of their radar counter-measures.
An industry source said hardly any progress had been made in the making of the F-15 Silent Eagle, an upgraded version of the F-15 offered with the FX-III, especially in the development of its conformal weapons bay (CWB) and canted vertical tails.
A senior official at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), which has been carrying out research and development of the F-15 SE’s internal weapons bay, told me last year that “only 10 percent of the work for the research and development of the F-15SE’s conformal weapons bay has been completed.”
KAI signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Boeing in 2010 for the production of the F-15SE’s conformal weapons bays.
Boeing would have had a better chance of winning the FX-III if it were a little more honest in explaining the limitations of its fourth-generation F-15s, rather than trying to conceal some unfavorable facts.
“Over my dead body,” a top Korean Air Force official in charge of maintenance of fighter jets said when asked his opinion of the introduction of the F-15SE.
He said Korea had wasted enough money and learned a lesson from the FX-I and FX-II that any upgrade offered exclusively to Korea would result in nightmares for maintenance personnel.
Boeing should think twice before complaining and even filing a lawsuit against the Korean government over the latest decision to reject its F-15, which was rolled out in 1972 and became the only candidate in the FX-III race.