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South Korea backs proposal to acquire additional F-35s

South Korea hopes to acquire an additional 20 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning IIs as part of its efforts to counter North Korea's nuclear and missile threats. (South Korea Ministry of National Defense)

A defence subcommittee of the South Korean government has backed a proposal to purchase additional Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets.

Speaking to Janes, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) confirmed the proposal. DAPA said that the proposal is under way and did not provide additional details at the time of publication.

South Korean media reported on 29 June that the project was approved on 9 June by a subcommittee of the Defense Project Promotion Committee. This second F-35A project is expected to cost KRW3.9 trillion (USD3 billion), according to media reports.

The potential acquisition of these aircraft is in line with previous announcements by Seoul about its interest in acquiring 20 additional aircraft.

However, in May, a supplementary budget law approved by the South Korean National Assembly reduced the country's defence funding for 2022 by more than KRW1.5 trillion (USD1.2 billion).

The largest cut was to the aircraft acquisition budget, which sees KRW228.6 billion in reductions. Janes assess, however, that the F-35 programme is sufficiently important to South Korea to be exempt from budgetary constraints.

The proposal for acquisition comes three months after the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) acknowledged the induction of all 40 F-35A fighter jets in the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF), on 28 March.

According to Yonhap news agency, the proposal is likely to be tabled on 13 July, at a full committee session. DAPA told Janes that it will carry out a feasibility study on the acquisition.

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