South Korea is planning to purchase its first stealth fighter jets ahead of schedule to enhance its capabilities to counter North Korea’s increasing provocations, a defence official has said.

“There is a growing consensus within the government that the third phase fighter acquisition programme should be launched at the earliest date possible,” he stated.

“It usually takes about four years for the first shipment of aircraft after a contract is signed, which means the new fighter jets can start to be deployed as early as 2015,” he added.

The fifth-generation combat aircraft will replace the aging South Korean Air Force fighters.

South Korea previously purchased 60 F-15K fighters from Boeing and is considering purchasing jets with partial stealth capabilities, such as Boeing’s F-15 aircraft, the Silent Eagle (SE).

The 10tn won ($8.96bn) new fighter jet program includes the F-15SE, the Lockheed Martin F-35 and the Eurofighter Typhoon.