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DND urged to NIX Korean choppers

  • Written by Paul M. Gutierrez
  • Published in Top Stories
  • Read: 202

THE Department of National Defense (DND) is being cautioned against even considering an offer from Korea Aerospace Industry, Limited (KAI) to purchase its own version of a “multi-role” military helicopter, the ‘Surion,’ over issues of safety, cost and reliability.

“If despite the warning, the government still proceeded with the purchase, it would be another rotten deal for the DND, similar to the scandalous purchase of the obsolete Dornier UH-1D helicopters in 2015 under the Aquino administration for over P1.2 billion that already resulted in several fatalities,” said industry sources who declined to be named for the moment.
     
The DND is again looking for another supplier of multi-role, combat utility helicopters (CUH) after President Rodrigo Duterte last February ordered the scrapping of the deal with Bell Helicopter of Canada over “preconditions” imposed by the Canadian government on how its CUH Bell 412 choppers should be used by the Philippine military.
 
The sources, who claimed they are issuing the warning out of “sincere concern” for the administration of President Duterte and the lives of pilots from the Philippine Air Force (PAF) who would be flying “Korea’s version of flying coffins,” said defense industry journals,
including Korea’s own state news agency, Yonhap, have widely reported the Korean government’s decision to “ground” the Surion in 2016.
     
“If the DND fails to observe due diligence and caution in this deal with KAI, we may end up scrapping it too because of the many unresolved issues on Surion’s safety and reliability,” they warned.
     
In a new dispatch on July 7, 2016, Yonhap disclosed that South Korea decided to ground its Surion fleet after an ‘EC-225 Super Puma’ developed by KAI’s European partner, ‘Airbus Helicopter SAS’ (formerly the Eurocopter Group), fatally crashed off the coast of Norway in April 29, 2016 killing all 13 people on board.
 
Air crash investigators from the European Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) later traced the caused to a “defective gear box” developed by Airbus, which is the same technology fitted in the Surion.
     
A year later, the Surion remains “grounded again due to defective parts,” according to a report filed by ‘Business Korea’ on February 6, 2017.
     
Quoting Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), it was established that after several more tests, “cracks” at “connecting parts on the main rotor” were found, strengthening the Korean military’s earlier decision to ground its entire Surion fleet of around 62 delivered units (as of 2016) to the South Korean Army, the year they were all ordered grounded.
    
The sources pointed out that due to a host of manufacturing and technology issues hounding the Surion, KAI is yet to make good on its promise to deliver some 279 units of Surion to the Korean Army, Marines and the police by 2017.
     
“These helicopters have never been sold nor used by any other military force outside of Korea.
     
“And despite KAI’s previous press releases that ‘orders’ have been made by other governments in South America and Asia, they dare not name them up to now. Is it because it is all media hype?” they asked.
     
They also advised the government to “be wary” of KAI’s local representatives’ offer of a “zero percent interest” on the proposed purchase as an “inducement.”
     
The sources further noted that KAI’s local agents are the same group of people who “swindled the Filipino people” when they managed to convince the Aquino government to buy twelve “basic model” F50 trainer fighter jets “without armaments.”
    
At a business forum in Davao City in June 2016, Duterte also criticized the purchase of the FA-50 jets, saying the P18.9 billion deal with KAI was “a waste of money.”
 
If money was wasted in the FA-50 deal, the sources said KAI’s new offer is not only another waste of taxpayers’ money “but like the UH-1D deal, can prove fatal to our pilots.”
    
“We have been duped several times before when it comes to defense asset procurements,” they added.          
    
“Are we going to see a repeat performance in this deal?” they asked.