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South Korea signs agreement for additional F-35s

South Korea regards its Lockheed Martin F-35A fleet as being a critical component of its ‘Three-Axis' kill-chain system. (South Korea Ministry of National Defense)

South Korea has signed a letter of acceptance (LOA) to acquire additional Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighter aircraft.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said on 1 January that the LOA was signed in December. Janes previously reported in September 2023 that South Korea had requested a sale of as many as 25 F-35As from the US government plus associated parts and components through Foreign Military Sales (FMS) with a value of USD5.06 billion. The acquisitions are part of the second phase of the next-generation fighter aircraft (F-X) acquisition programme, according to DAPA.

The LOA came days after South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Committee deliberated on 4 December 2023 to acquire the F-35As. According to DAPA, the committee considered evaluations of need and negotiation results with the US before approving the acquisition.

DAPA added that it also conducted “effective negotiations to reduce project costs, despite the limited competition and the nature of the Foreign Military Sales”. The agency has not specified the updated cost of acquisition.

It added that the signing of the LOA was led by a special negotiating team composed of the “radiation agency, military, and civilian advisors” from April 2023. The team “negotiated [the procurement, based] on the experience of the first project and the know-how of aircraft operation during the period”, DAPA said.

The 40 aircraft in the first phase of the F-35A acquisition programme were delivered and deployed from 2019 to 2022, according to DAPA.

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