Tuesday April 9,
7:16 AM EDT
(Refiling to fix spelling in para 10)
By Jalil Hamid
KUALA LUMPUR, April 9 (Reuters) - A Russian arms export agency that lost
a $4 billion South Korean fighter project on Tuesday questioned the
selection process that it said was biased toward Boeing Co of the United
"It's a political decision," a top official at Rosoboronexport said at an
Asian defence show in the Malaysian capital, referring to the South Korean
Seoul wrapped up two years of evaluations at the end of last month by
announcing that the Rafale fighter aircraft from France's Dassault Aviation
SA (AVMD) and Boeing's (BA)
F-15K would go to a second review stage.
A winner for the 40-fighter deal is to be named in April. Russia's Sukhoi
Su-35 and European consortium Eurofighter's Typhoon (EAD) (BA)
were knocked out of the bidding.
But last week the Dassault-led French consortium asked a court to halt a
selection process it called unfair.
Officials at Dassault say they should have been selected in the first
phase of evaluation, where they offered a larger package of jobs and
Rosoboronexport Deputy Director-General Viktor Komardin told reporters in
Malaysia the U.S.-based Boeing held an advantage over Dassault in the final
phase of evaluation.
Komardin said South Korea was insisting that the new fighters must be
compatible with the existing U.S.-made equipment such as landing or radar
equipment being used by South Korea.
"It was a condition, so how can we fit to that part of the tender? So I
think it's a political decision.
"If the South Korean government thought about it beforehand, that this
will be the main parameter, the key demand, then no one from any country,
from France, from us will participate," Komardin said.
"Dassault and the Americans are the two chosen for the second stage.
Maybe Dassault can win but I think they will not," he said.
TWO-HORSE RACE IN MALAYSIA?
The South Korean deal is crucial to Dassault, which has yet to sell its
Rafale next-generation fighter outside France and has received
fewer-than-expected orders from the French government.
There are 37,000 U.S. troops stationed in South Korea, and the two
countries have maintained a close defence relationship since the Korean War
50 years ago.
South Korea expects about $3 billion in jobs and technology transfers
from the fighter programme which it hopes to use as a springboard for
developing its own fighter by 2015.
In a sign of how keen Dassault is to secure the deal, it has offered to
install the entire Rafale production line in Korea and give a large chunk of
offset work to local firms.
Dassault leads a consortium with electronics firm Thales (TCFP) and
aero-engine maker Snecma.
Analysts have said Seoul's choice might also influence a pending decision
from Singapore, which is also shopping for fighters.
Malaysia, also in the market, has been considering Russia's Sukhoi Su-30
or Boeing's F/A-18 E/F Super Hornets to build a new squadron of 16 planes.
But defence analysts said the two-horse race has been joined by latecomer
Anglo-Swedish group BAE/Sweden's Saab (SAABb), which is offering its Jas 39
Gripen fighter jets.
"It came in quite recently, but it is considered an outsider," said one.