The US State Department has approved the sale of 25 more F-35A Joint Strike Fighters to South Korea, with an estimated price tag of $5.06 billion.
In a statement published on the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) website, the Biden administration assures that the agreement “will enhance the Republic of Korea’s ability to confront current and future threats by providing a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with US forces.”
South Korea already has a first order for 40 units of the F-35A, meaning the new purchase would increase its fleet of fifth-generation fighters by more than 50 percent. The first plans were delivered in 2019. The announcement comes on the heels of a major trilateral meeting between the leaders of the United States, Japan and South Korea.
The announced deal covers 25 F-35A units, along with 26 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines and a host of equipment. Commercial compensation is expected, although no details have been announced.
It is important to note that the advertisement does not represent a final sale. Announced Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases such as these have been approved by the executive branch for review by Congress; If Congress does not object, the amounts and dollar values of the settlements can change during negotiations with industry.
In a company statement, prime contractor Lockheed Martin said: “We are honored that the Republic of Korea (ROK) is interested in additional F-35s, continuing the nearly decade-long F-35 partnership with Lockheed Martin. The F-35 is the fighter aircraft of choice for key allies in the Indo-Pacific region requiring interoperable deterrence, and we are proud to offer the F-35 as the solution to meet the ROK’s regional air defense requirements now and in the future.”
“The proposed sale will enhance the Republic of Korea’s ability to confront current and future threats by providing it with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with US forces,” the DSCA justifies. “Korea already has F-35s in its inventory and will have no difficulties integrating these aircraft and services into its armed forces,” he added.
However, if the estimated cost of this sale seems high, it is because the DSCA included in its calculation the upgrade to the so-called Block 4 version of the F-35A, whose development has been delayed. As a reminder, this provides for the addition of 66 new features. However, it turns out that the F135-PW-100 is not powerful enough for this standard… In the United States, two visions collide: the Pentagon advocates a modernization of this engine, while Lockheed-Martin would like to integrate the XA -100, an adaptive cycle reactor of the AETP [Adaptive Engine Transition Program].