Murphy's Law: What's In A Name


October 8, 2009: South Korean politicians are in an uproar because the electronic maps supplied with the F-15K fighter-bombers South Korea has purchased, include the wrong names for geographical features. In particular, South Koreans were upset that the U.S. maps called the Dokdo islands by its old Japanese name, and what the Koreans call the "East Sea", the "Sea of Japan."

This is serious stuff. Last year, South Korea recalled its ambassador from Japan, because of escalating confrontations over the disputed ownership of some islands. South Korea has long been willing to sacrifice good relations with Japan over the issue of who owns the uninhabited Dokdo (Takeshima to the Japanese) islands in the Sea of Japan (East Sea in Korean). What is really going on here is continued Korean resentment of Japanese colonial occupation from 1910-45, and centuries of Japanese aggression towards Korea. Both countries have been sending more air naval reconnaissance missions to the islands, and the mass media in both countries have been jumping all over the tension.

U.S. Army intelligence, which supplies maps for the South Korean military, warned U.S. government officials nine times that the F-15K aircraft mapping systems were using incorrect names, but nothing was ever done. Meanwhile, three years ago, South Korea ordered another 20 American F-15K fighter bombers, in addition to the 40 already delivered.

This aircraft is a Korean version of the U.S. Air Force F-15E. The 64 foot long F-15K weighs 40 tons, and is equipped for air-to-air and, especially, air-to-ground combat. It has a 20mm cannon, and can carry 11 tons of munitions. This includes JDAM smart bombs, air-to-ground missiles and penetrating bombs for the extensive underground facilities found in North Korea. The F-15E is one of the most capable ground attacks aircraft every built.

South Korea is paying $100 million each for its F-15Ks, and delivery of all 60 is expected to take another two years to complete. The U.S. stopped building the F-15E in 2004, and has about 210 in service. Over 1,500 F-15s are in service worldwide.


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