The South Korean government has all but selected the F-35 as its “high capability stealth fighter”, of which it is expected to buy up to 60, with an initial tranche of 40 in the conventional takeoff and landing configuration for delivery between 2018 and 2024.
Although not having yet confirmed the acquisition of the F-35 by name, the government’s defence ministry has narrowed the selection down to a point it effectively excludes all other types. The F-35 has been competing with the latest version of the F-15, of which south Korea currently has 60 in service, and Europe’s Typhoon, both of which have now been ruled out.
It is said the F-35 deal would also include an offset arrangement by which Lockheed Martin would contribute to the development of an indigenous fighter capability – the KF-X – the details of which continue to be negotiated as part of the broader deal.
A firm commitment is anticipated early in the new year.