South Korea to Acquire 20 Additional F-35 Fighter Jets from the U.S.

South Korea is set to acquire 20 more F-35 fighter jets from the United States as part of its F-X project focused on purchasing foreign stealth fighters from 2023 to 2028. The deal, which was formally approved by the Defense Ministry on July 15, will be worth 3.9 trillion Korean won (nearly $3 billion). South Korea plans to complete the acquisition by 2028.

With that purchase, the South Korean Air Force will have a total of 60 F-35As, as the military already operates 40 F-35A Block-Is.

The South Korean government and military plan to make a feasibility test this year and build a full acquisition plan early next year.

The state’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) expects the airpower gap created by retiring outdated fighter jets of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) to be supplemented by the new F-35As, which are also meant to strengthen the country’s deterrence capabilities.

The previous government had already made feasibility studies and demand verification process in 2018 and 2019, but it preferred a light aircraft carrier and F-35Bs. When the new government took office this year, more serious concerns about the ROKAF’s outdated fighter jets and increasingly advanced North Korean nuclear weapons prompted Seoul to switch its defense acquisition priorities.

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