Posted November. 22, 2013 07:52,
The South Korean military will likely decide to purchase Lockheed Martin`s F-35A stealth fighters without holding opening bidding for the Air Forces` next-generation fighter jet program called FX, an 8.3 trillion won (7.2 billion U.S. dollars) project to acquire 60 high-tech fighter jets.
The South Korean military authorities said Thursday that the Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) will hold a meeting of top commanders, including JCS Chairman Admiral Choi Yoon-hee, on Friday to deliberate and conclude details of the FX program. The military leadership will confirm the required operational capability, the number of jets to be purchased and the delivery schedule for the acquisition program but do not plan to conclude which type of fighter jet the military will buy.
However, the prevailing view is that the military will select the F-35A because the Air Force has asked for the government to buy model with advanced stealth functions and electronic warfare capabilities. "If the military leadership accepts the Air Forces` requested conditions, the F-35A will become the only aircraft left among FX candidates," a military official said. "The F-35A will be purchased through a free contract without opening bidding." Three types of fighter jets -- the F-35A, Boeing`s F-15SE and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company`s Eurofighter -- have been competing for the project.
In September, Seoul`s Defense Acquisition Program Administration proposed the F-15SE as the single candidate as the model was the only one within the total budget. However, an acquisition committee chaired by Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin rejected the proposal. At that time, a group of former Air Force chiefs of staff sent written letters to the presidential office Cheong Wa Dae and the defense ministry, expressing their objection to the F15SE, which was an old model developed in the 1970s.
The current budget for the FX program is not large enough for 60 F-35As. Therefore, the top military brass is expected to discuss whether to reduce the number of aircrafts to be acquired or to make mixed purchases of the F-35A and less expensive aircrafts.