KF-21 Technology Leak Attempt Raises Concerns Over Diplomatic Tensions – Part 2
Intelligence Agency Investigating Intentional Leakage and Internal Collusion
In 2015, when this project was being promoted, Lockheed Martin and other U.S. parties had already expressed their reluctance to transfer technology. This was because they were worried about technology leaks to third countries. Therefore, as a government, it is interpreted that they are hurrying to recover from the situation so as not to affect the export of strategic weapons from the U.S. in the future and to prevent the U.S. side from thinking their concerns at the time from becoming a reality.
In particular, it is said our government was highly concerned that the U.S. side may have a problem because unauthorized USB memory was brought into the defense company, which should have the strictest security. A defense industry official said, “If the content related to the U.S. government’s export approval in the caught data is something that the U.S. government did not allow to share with Indonesia, it could be a bigger problem,” and “It would have been more urgent to watch out for the U.S. than the issue of Indonesia’s contribution.”
It is known that the intelligence authorities are verifying whether the Indonesian technician intentionally tried to leak and if there are internal colluders.
In a situation where we have to continue the joint development project with Indonesia, there is an analysis that our government is refraining from excessive responses.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration requested, “There are some reports in some media that the KF-21 technology data obtained by the Indonesian technician includes combat equipment such as the AESA radar, which is the eye of the fighter jet, but please refrain from speculative reports.” A military official also drew a line, saying, “So far, we believe that there is no content that violates military secrets or the Defense Industry Technology Protection Act.” They claim that no core technology could be classified as a secret.
The military authorities are shushing this incident because there are concerns that cooperation between the two countries could become more difficult in a situation where the controversy over the contribution of about 1 trillion won is overdue.
Some even raise suspicions that they are intentionally defaulting to steal technology. On the other hand, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) also showed a firm stance that no content corresponded to military secrets in the USB memory. They are worried that this attempt to leak technology could hurt the KF-21 project schedule, i.e., the collapse of joint development and the future KF-21 export process.
Government’s “Low Key” Response Atmosphere
The government’s will to prevent the resurgence of diplomatic issues caused by defense-related information warfare is also perceived. 13 years ago when an incident of a National Intelligence Service agent’s intrusion into an Indonesian special envoy’s accommodation occurred, Indonesia only expressed formal regret, and in their country, they actively resolved it as a “misunderstanding about nothing”. It was known that they tried to extract information about the negotiations with the Indonesian side to “realize the T-50 export”.
At that time, it was observed that they restrained the escalation considering the relationship with South Korea, the sixth-largest trading partner. Eventually, a few months after the accommodation intrusion incident, South Korea and Indonesia finally contracted the export of 16 T-50s (400 million dollars). This time, there is an atmosphere of dealing with our government’s “low-key” response.
The KF-21 is a large-scale project with a total development cost of about 8 trillion won. In 2016, the Indonesian government agreed to bear about 20% of the project cost, approximately 1.7 trillion won (later reduced to 1.6 trillion won due to project cost adjustments), by 2026, under the condition that it would produce 48 units locally in Indonesia and receive one prototype and some technology. However, Indonesia has not paid about 1 trillion won of its contribution due to budget shortages, etc.