WASHINGTON — The US has laid out a pair of potential sales to the Republic of Korea, a move that could indicate a decision is near on that country’s fighter replacement program.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), which handles foreign military sales for the Defense Department, notified Congress on May 21 of potential weapon sales for two fighter jets — one for the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and one for the F-15 Silent Eagle model. Those two platforms and Eurofighter’s Typhoon are finalists for South Korea’s F-XIII competition to replace aging F-4 jets.
In early April, the DSCA alerted Congress to potential sales of the jets themselves. As with those notifications, this week’s announcements are not a sign that a decision has been made to purchase an American airplane. Instead, the government is laying the groundwork so that when South Korea picks the winner the Pentagon can act quickly.
Still, the fact the US is laying out potential armament sales shows the competition is moving forward. Sources have indicated that an announcement on the fighter replacement will come before the end of the year, potentially as soon as mid-June.
The F-35 lot is estimated to cost US $793 million while the F-15 lot is estimated at US $823 million.
The two packages are similar; both include 274 AIM-120C-7 Advanced Medium Range Air-to-Air Missiles (AMRAAM) and six AMRAAM guidance sections, as well as 154 AIM-9X-2 (Block II) tactical missiles and assorted support equipment. The two lots also include 542 GBU-39/B small diameter bombs.
The F-15 S/E lot includes a higher number of BLU-109 2000LB penetrators (530 to 362) and comes with 780 GBU-12 bombs, which the JSF order swaps out in favor of 170 BLU-117 2000LB general purpose bombs.
“This proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by meeting the legitimate security and defense needs of an ally and partner nation,” DSCA wrote in its announcement. “The ROK continues to be an important force for peace, political stability, and economic progress in North East Asia.
“These aircraft and weapons will provide the ROK with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces. The ROK will use the enhanced capability as a deterrent to regional threats and strengthen its homeland defense.”
“Boeing Weapons & Missile Systems always stands ready to support our customers in providing leading edge and affordable direct attack and cruise missile capabilities,” James Dodd, Boeing Global Strike Weapons & Missile Systems vice president, wrote in an email.