South Korea authorizes multi-billion dollar purchase of more F-35s and SM-6 missiles.

The South Korean Government has reportedly given the military permission to purchase additional fifth-generation stealth fighters and has also started acquiring the SM-6 ship-launched interceptor.

DAPA, or the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, said that the Defense Programs Promotion Committee had authorized a $2.85 billion plan to purchase additional Lockheed Martin F-35A fighter fighters. It is expected that South Korea will acquire the blueprints in the year 2028.

Although South Korea gained approval from the US State Department in 2013 to purchase 60 F-35As and has already received 40, DAPA did not specify how many more the military will acquire under the latest plan.

South Korea authorizes multi-billion dollar purchase of more F-35s and SM-6 missiles.

The committee also gave the go-ahead to the first of two phases of a $582.8 million plan to purchase the SM-6 air defense missile, made by Raytheon Technologies, to equip a second batch of KDX-III destroyers. Equipped with the Aegis weapon system. The missiles will be used for anti-aircraft defense and to counter ballistic missiles from the 8,200-tonne ships currently operating with the SM-2.

South Korea has three KDX-III destroyers in service from its first batch, also known as the Jeongjo, the Great-class ships. The second fleet’s flagship, ROKS Jeongjo the Great, was laid down in July 2022 and is scheduled to begin service in 2024.

The South Korean Defense Ministry also confirmed that it still wants to develop an aircraft carrier. Local news channel SBS reported that the Ministry responded to questions from a parliamentarian who will soon start feasibility studies on the prospects of building a 50,000-tonne design.

The Ministry had told Jung Sung-ho, a Parliament’s National Defense Committee member, that it would also be possible to develop a carrier variant of the KF-21 fighter, made locally by Korean Aerospace Industries, within a decade if the Government allocates sufficient funds.

The F-35B, a derivative of the Joint Strike Fighter designed for short takeoff and vertical landing, had prompted South Korea to consider building a 30,000-ton aircraft carrier. Nonetheless, military flight operations can be conducted with the use of catapults for aircraft launches and arrested landings on a larger ship from which the KF-21 could operate.

It would be a more complex and costly system than operations from an F-35B aircraft carrier. The Ministry is expected to decide later this year on whether to go ahead with the program and which option to pursue.

South Korea and its nuclear-armed neighbor North Korea have only signed an armistice agreement, so officially they are still at war. North Korea has continued to develop its cruise and ballistic missile programs and frequently tests them in the waters around the Korean Peninsula.