Korea aims to procure 5th generation fighter jets
Korea's top military officials and weapons experts on Tuesday voted down Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle, the only candidate that was within the government's budget.
Instead, they made it clear that the government should make efforts to procure a fifth generation combat aircraft.
"The decision takes into account the recent trend in the global aviation industry which centers around fifth generation fighter jets."
The spokesman's remarks suggest Lockheed Martin's F-35A is back in the race, as fifth generation in this case refers to the latest stealth fighter jets that can avoid radar detection.
Among the three initial contenders - Boeing's F-15SE, Lockheed Martin's F-35A, and the European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company's Eurofighter Typhoon - the F-35A is the only model with complete stealth features.
Boeing's F-15SE has long been seen by experts as an ineffective deterrence to North Korea and other potential foes due to its weak stealth capacity.
"I think the main reason for voting down the F-15SE was its weak stealth capacity. Concerns grew over how Korea would deter regional powers without a single stealth fighter jet until 2050."
The F-35A is now being eyed as the most competitive candidate for Korea's F-X project, which must now be started again from scratch.
Experts say just possessing the F35-A would act as a strong deterrence to North Korea, and help maintain an air defense balance with China and Japan, both of whom are going all out to procure more stealth fighter jets.
Officials say they will formulate different purchasing methods this time, while also making efforts to expand the total budget for the project.
But, for now, it's unclear whether the Korean Air Force will be able to deploy its new fighter jet fleet by 2017, as scheduled.
Han Da-eun, Arirang News.
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