South Korea selected Boeing Co.'s F-15K fighter jet for a 2.3 trillion won ($2.3 billion) project to purchase 20 new advanced jet fighters, the military procurement agency announced [April 25].
The selection was approved during the 27th defense project promotion committee presided over by Defense Minister Lee Sang-hee, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said.
The South Korean Air Force has sought to purchase 20 multi-role fighter jets between 2010 and 2012 to reinforce airstrike capabilities. The multibillion-dollar fighter deal, dubbed the 2nd F-X, follows South Korea's first phase of F-X in 2002, in which the Air Force will introduce 40 F-15Ks by this year.
Under the deal, the South Korean military will acquire 21 aircraft, one more than the original target number of 20 for the procurement, DAPA said. Boeing agreed to provide one additional F-15K for free.
"As a result of negotiations with Boeing, we will introduce 21 units within the originally earmarked budget of 2.3 trillion won," DAPA said. Boeing was the sole bidder for the 2nd F-X project.
DAPA said U.S. aircraft engine maker Pratt & Whitney will provide engines for the new F-15Ks. It plans to procure 44 units of the F100 model.
The F-15K is an advanced derivative of the F-15E, capable of long-range precision strike missions without escort. It has a 23,000-pound payload and can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, with a combat radius of 1,800 kilometers. A single aircraft costs $100 million.
The new fleet of F-15Ks will become crucial national defense assets as the military prepares to assume wartime operational control of its armed forces by April 17, 2012, DAPA said. It will beef up precision strike capabilities of the Air Force, replacing its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s, the agency said.
DAPA said it also decided to purchase high-tech air-to-surface guided missiles that will be used by F-15Ks, from overseas weapon makers. The Air Force seeks to procure AGM-158 JASSM-class missiles between 2010 and 2011. JASSM is an acronym meaning Joint Air-to-Surface Standoff Missile, a cruise missile developed in the United States, whose operational range is over 370 kilometers. Its accuracy is known have error probability of only 2.4 meters.
JASSM is also seen as a crucial asset to cope with North Korea's nuclear threat.
The Air Force said it plans to begin the third phase of F-X program in 2011 to purchase fifth-generation fighter jets equivalent to the F-22 and the F-35. Under the plan, 60 units featuring radar-evading stealth functions will be introduced between 2014 and 2019, it said.