Korea’s F-X Phase 3 project, the largest-ever procurement program for the Air Force, will be reviewed all over again. Controversy over the vacuum of in-combat capabilities caused by the replacement of old fighter jets and the securing of additional budget is expected.
Baek Yoon-hyung, spokesperson for Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), announced on September 24 that the F-15 SE was rejected. The decision was reached after deliberation in a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin. It was reported that most of the committee members opposed selecting the fighter aircraft.
Initially, the Boeing F-15 SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35A, and European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company’s Eurofighter Typhoon submitted bids for the FX-III project. But only Boeing offered a price within the 8.3 trillion won (US$7.2 billion) budget, becoming the sole candidate.
It was reported that DAPA adhered to its position that the F-15 SE should be selected, owing to a vacuum in combat capabilities. But the Ministry of National Defense (MND) rejected Boeing's aircraft on account of public opinion against the fighter jet and its limited stealth functions.
MND will create a task force with Lee Yong-dae, head of military force and resources management at the ministry, as a task force team leader, restarting the project with the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Air Force, DAPA, and related organizations. MND intends to finalize the project within a year because of concerns over the security vacuum. The Air Force aims to introduce and deploy next-generation fighter aircraft on combat missions by 2017, as originally planned.
MND spokesperson Kim Min-seok said, “The committee decided to restart the project after a comprehensive assessment of asymmetric threats from North Korea, including its nuclear weapons, the recent security situation, and the rapid development of aeronautical technologies. Committee members agreed that the Air Force needs fifth-generation combat jets in order to deter provocations from North Korea, and to keep pace with the latest technological trends.”
Apparently, the fact that F-15 SE is still in the product design phase also had some impact on the final decision as well.