South Korea has officially selected the F-35 joint strike fighter as it's next air platform. (Lockheed Martin)
WASHINGTON AND TAIPEI — The Republic of Korea has officially selected the F-35 as its next-generation fighter, the government announced this morning.
The country has agreed to purchase 40 of the F-35A conventional-takeoff-and-landing (CTOL) design, with first delivery planned for 2018. South Korea becomes the third foreign military sales customer for the F-35, joining Israel and Japan. There are eight other international partners on the program.
The conventional variant appears to be popular among nations with a deeper strategic depth and a sophisticated air defense network.
“We are honored by and appreciate the trust and confidence the Republic of Korea has placed in the 5th generation F-35 to meet its demanding security requirements,” Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice president, said in a company press release. “This decision strengthens and extends our long-standing security partnership while enhancing regional stability across the greater Asia Pacific theater.”
Both Singapore and Taiwan have expressed interest in procuring the F-35B short takeoff and vertical landing aircraft (STOVL) aircraft. Neither country has strategic depth nor will any of the runways survive the first hours of a hostile campaign. The F-35B STOVL allows both countries to continue operating longer under a high-intensity ballistic missile campaign.
The selection of the F-35 over Boeing’s F-15SE and Eurofighter’s Typhoon had been widely expected, with sources indicating in November that the F-35 had been selected to replace South Korea’s older F-4 and F-5 fighter fleet.
Eric Schnaible, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 international communication manager for Israel, Japan, South Korea, Singapore and flight testing, said that with the selection, South Korean and US government officials will soon start negotiations on price and offset.
“Their program ... is for 40 CTOLs with delivery beginning in 2018,” said Schnaible. “Since the DAPEC [Defence Acquisition Program’s Executive Committee] announcement in Seoul earlier today did not specifically state that, we did not include figures in our release. All of the jets would be built here in Fort Worth.”
The company expects to have a signed letter of acceptance by the summer, at which point cost and delivery timelines would be established, Schnaible said.
The fighter selection is the first part of a massive recapitalization effort underway by the Republic of Korea Air Force. The service is also aiming to award a contract on a new tanker before the end of the year, and also expects to begin development on its own indigenous fighter design.■