Logistics: Foreign Air Lines Maintain U.S. Warplanes

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July 19, 2007: Korean Air Lines has been hired to do upgrades and other depot level maintenance on U.S. Air Force F-16s stationed in South Korea. This is nothing new, and has been going on for about three decades. When South Korea began using American jets, it had a choice of setting up its own depot level (rebuilding and upgrades) maintenance facility, or sending the aircraft to the United States (letting Japan do it was not an option for political reasons). Since South Korea was also investing heavily in its national airline, Korean Air Lines, it made sense to combine as much aircraft maintenance work as possible in one operation. Korean Air Lines became a public corporation in 1969 (it had done poorly as a government owned entity), and one of the things the new owners were eager to get was as much businesses, on the ground or in the air, as they could. For example, since the late 1970s, over 500 American F-15s have gotten depot level maintenance from Korean Air Lines. All South Korean Air Force jets have as well, and now the most up-to-date American and South Korean F-16s are as well.

This situation is not unique to South Korea. In Europe, a lot of American military equipment was refurbished and upgraded locally. It was cheaper and more convenient, although at times, Congress would make noise about taking jobs away from Americans. When Congress was told how much more it would cost to "bring the work back home," they usually looked for other targets.

 


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