The South Korean Defence Acquisition Programme Agency (DAPA) has officially announced its selection of Lockheed Martin's F-35A Lightning II joint strike fighter (JSF) aircraft for the country's multi-billion dollar F-X Fighter acquisition programme.
Announced after a comprehensive evaluation process, the decision makes the Republic of Korea (ROK) the third foreign military sales (FMS) country to procure the F-35A fifth-generation aircraft to meet its demanding security requirements.
The F-35A conventional take-off and landing (CTOL) version of the aircraft was chosen by Israel and Japan in 2010 and 2011, respectively.
Lockheed Martin Aeronautics executive vice-president Orlando Carvalho said the decision strengthens and extends the company's long-standing security partnership while enhancing regional stability across the greater Asia Pacific theatre.
"We look forward to supporting the discussions between the Republic of Korea and US Governments in support of a final agreement this year," Carvalho said.
Valued at KRW7.34tn ($6.8bn), the F-X contract includes the acquisition of 60 advanced aircraft along with support systems for replacement of the Republic of Korea Air Force's (ROKAF) ageing F-4 and F-5 fighter aircraft fleet.
DAPA had initially selected Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle for the contract in September 2013, but re-tendered the contract the following month amidst concerns that the aircraft's capabilities were insufficient to maintain a strategic advantage over North Korea.
Under development for the US Air Force (USAF), the F-35A features internal carriage and external stations for missiles and bombs, and is designed to perform air-to-air and air-to-ground missions with stealth capability, which is claimed to be the primary reason for its selection.
The three F-35 variants, including short take-off and vertical landing (STOVL) aircraft and carrier version (CV) are scheduled to replace USAF's A-10 and F-16s, the US Navy's F/A-18, US Marine Corps' F/A-18 and AV-8B Harrier, and a variety of fighter aircraft for at least ten foreign countries.
Image: A USAF F-35A Lightning II aircraft in flight. Photo: courtesy of MSgt John Nimmo Sr.