Lockheed Martin’s F-35A is expected to be chosen as Korea’s next-generation fighter aircraft. The final decision will be made after deliberation at a Joint Chiefs of Staff Council meeting in late November and a meeting of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration in December.
“A Joint Chiefs of Staff Council meeting will be held at the end of this month. Participants will evaluate capabilities of fighter jets presented by the Air Force and determine the number of units based on estimated costs. After that, a certain type of a fighter airplane will be ultimately selected,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesperson for the Ministry of National Defense at a regular briefing on November 11.
Earlier, the Air Force is reported to have expressed the opinion to the Joint Chiefs of Staff that it is necessary to have a FX next-gen fighter with increased stealth capabilities, in line with the latest trends in contemporary warfare and aviation technology. So far, the Boeing F-15 SE Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin’s F-35A, and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company’s Eurofighter Typhoon have been examined for the FX-III project. Among those, the F-35A is regarded as the only one with stealth capabilities, and therefore, its selection is highly likely.
Related to the F-35A’s possibilities, Spokesperson Kim said, “The F-35A cannot be purchased commercially. The purchase is only possible through the US Foreign Military Sales program. So, a negotiated contract will be inevitable. But nothing has been determined yet, and we don’t know whether or not single or plural types of fighter planes will be chosen.”
Some in the military argue that both the F-35A and cheaper models should be purchased together, in light of the Air Force’s aging fighters and 8.3 trillion won (US$7.7 billion) budget limit. However, the Eurofighter Typhoon is not likely to be selected, due to special characteristics of the Korean-US alliance.