ROKAF F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF)
On 25 September 2014 it was announced that South Korea would buy 40 F-35A fighter jets from the U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin for about 7 billion US dollars. Under the agreed purchase deal, Lockheed Martin will transfer production technologies in 17 sectors to be used for the nation's next generation fighter jet projects. The purchase is aimed at replacing the country's aging warplanes and to cope with North Korea's military threats. According to the state-run Defense Acquisition Program Administration, the new fighter jets will be delivered to South Korea between 2018 and 2025.
The Defense Security Cooperation Agency notified Congress 29 March 2013 of a possible Foreign Military Sale to the Government of Korea for 60 F-35 Joint Strike Fighter Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) aircraft and associated equipment, parts, training and logistical support for an estimated cost of $10.8 billion. The competing bid for 60 F-15 Silent Eagle aircraft had an estimated cost of $2.408 billion.
The first South Korean F-35A fighter aircraft made its public debut at a rollout ceremony held at Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Texas on 28 March 2018. Hundreds of key defense and military officials, as well as politicians from South Korea and the U.S. attended the ceremony. Seoul's Vice Defense Minister Suh Choo-suk and the South Korean Air Force's Vice Chief of Staff Lee Seong-yong were among the attendees.
Vice Minister Suh stressed the fielding of the fighter jet is not simply an acquisition of jets, but also a symbolic representation of the ironclad alliance between South Korea and the US. "I request your continued interest and support for the fielding of the F-35 fighter jet so that it can serve as a critical asset in protecting the South Korean airspace. I also hope for the continued peace and stability on the Korean peninsula stemming from the impervious ROK-U.S. alliance."
In a video message, South Korea's Defense Minister Song Young-moo dubbed the fifth-generation stealth aircraft as the world's best fighter jet, saying its deployment will greatly enhance the nation's ability to maintain the security of the nation's sovereign airspace.
The F-35A jets have state-of-the-art radar evasion capabilities and an advanced weapon system,. which are expected to significantly strengthen the country's defense against any provocation. "The technological capabilities of this fifth-generation fighter are unmatched anywhere in the world. The F-35 does more than transform into an airforce. It transforms a nation's armed forces, and it enables allies to maintain peace through strength and cooperation that spans the globe."
South Korea's Air Force also expects the advanced fighter jets to enhance the security of the Korean peninsula. "With aims to implement effective aerospace operations, we expect the F-35As to enhance our prompt precision strike capabilities." Six F-35A jets will be manufactured for South Korea this year, and they will be delivered to Luke Air Force Base in Arizona,.. where South Korean pilots will undergo the respective training before the jets are delivered to Cheongju Air Base in South Korea in March 2019. The South Korean Air Force aims at securing a fleet of at least 40 F-35A units by 2021.
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