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Old fighters that fell again, now we need to fold our wings [핫이슈]

picture explanationAir Force F-5 fighter [사진 = 연합뉴스]

Another accident occurred in which the F-5E fighter, a representative old model of the Air Force fighter, crashed. The service life of fighters is usually 30 years, but it is said that it has been 36 years since the accident fighter was introduced. It’s unfortunate that you got into an accident while driving an old fighter that should have already been retired.

A total of 12 F-5 fighters in service with the Air Force have crashed since 2000. Pilots who are driving old models are said to be complaining, saying, “We carry out our missions with our lives as collateral.” It is a common point among military experts that it is a model that should have been abandoned earlier. The Air Force promised to prevent recurrence in each accident, but it was not kept.

The Air Force’s F-5E was introduced from the United States in 1975, and the F-5F was assembled and produced in Korea from 1983. Currently, the Air Force has about 80 F-5 family fighters. It is hard to believe that the Korean Air Force, which has state-of-the-art air power such as the F-35A stealth fighter, aerial tanker, and Global Hawk unmanned reconnaissance aircraft (UAV), still has many obsolete fighters that are 30 years old.

It is known that the Air Force plans to retire the F-5E sequentially after 2026, when the introduction of the KF-21 fighter developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is expected. Therefore, there is concern about the recurrence of similar accidents due to the aging of the F-5 series fighter jets. An Air Force reserve officer said, “The fundamental problem is that the retirement of older models has been delayed due to the delay in the introduction of the KF-21.”

According to the Korea Defense Research Institute (KIDA), the appropriate number of fighters for the Air Force is about 430. 120 high-class fighters (F-35A, F-15K) with strategic strike capability, 220 medium-class fighters (KF-16, F-16) for various operations, low-class fighters (KF-5, It is said that effective air operations in case of emergency are possible only when 90 F-5 and FA-50) are equipped. According to state audit data by Rep. Ahn Gyu-baek of the Democratic Party of Korea, the Air Force currently owns about 410 fighters and is expected to decrease to about 360 by 2024. Due to this situation, the Air Force is unable to boldly cull outdated fighters. Yoon Seok-yeol, the presidential candidate for People’s Strength, also criticized on Facebook, saying, “It’s a shame if the pilots’ deaths are due to aging fighters.”

Earlier on the afternoon of the 11th, one F-5E, which took off from the Air Force Suwon Base, crashed in a hill near Gwanhang-ri, Jeongnam-myeon, Hwaseong-si. The pilot, Captain Simmo, attempted an emergency escape, but was unsuccessful. At that time, it was confirmed that Captain Shim shouted “Eject” twice. It has not been confirmed whether the emergency escape device was actually activated.

Meanwhile, the Air Force is investigating the cause of the accident by forming a Flight Accident Response Headquarters headed by the Deputy Chief of Staff. However, at the government level, not the air force, it is necessary to find a way to reduce the power gap as much as possible while decommissioning old models. Otherwise, a tragedy like this one cannot be prevented from repeating itself.

[윤상환 논설위원]
[ⓒ 매일경제 & mk.co.kr, 무단전재 및 재배포 금지]

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