South Korea to order 20 additional F35s

the South Korean authorities have announced their intention to order 20 additional F35s to strengthen the 40 devices already ordered, of which 8 units have been delivered to date. The F35 model is not yet decided, although several sources indicate that it will likely be F35A, and not F35B as initially speculated. It seems in fact that the country's military authorities prefer to wait for entry into service 2 assault aircraft carriers of 30.000 tonnes announced this summer to deploy fixed-wing aircraft, and that the Doko class LHDs will ultimately not see an F35 on their bridges.

The order, valued at $3,3 billion, is consistent with the previous order of 40 aircraft for $6,4 billion, but seems to mean that the country is not considering a future price reduction, beyond the unit price at $80 million reached today. It is likely that beyond the second phase of the FX III program, which runs from 2021 to 2026, a new order for F35, of the F35B type this time, will intervene to equip the 2 aircraft carriers which must enter service around 2030. No mention was made in these declarations of the F35C or the new class of aircraft carriers that the local press reported on.

KFX program News Defense | Fighter jets | Military aircraft construction
The KF-X program is today the main axis of modernization of the fighter fleet of the South Korean Air Force

It is interesting to note the limited number of aircraft ordered by Seoul, while its air force currently has more than 500 combat aircraft, including 158 F5s, 168 F16s, 71 F4 Phantoms, 59 F15s and 60 T50s. The F35 are, in fact, only intended to replace part of the F4 and F5 dating from the 80s, while it plans to to acquire at least 250 K-FX to replace the F4 and F5 remaining, and the oldest F15 and F16.

The fact remains that with around a hundred F35s (60 F35As and 40 F35Bs), and 250 K-FX, the country will not be able to replace all of its aircraft, and will notably lack a heavy aircraft to take over from the F15s. which today carry out the bulk of air defense missions in the country. It is true that the main threat to Seoul, North Korea, does not have a particularly modern or powerful air force, even if it fields more than 500 aircraft. Indeed, apart from the thirty Mig29s, it only fields very old devices like the Mig21 or 23, or Chinese copies like the J7. But the recent Sino-Russian force deployments near South Korean airspace will probably lead the country's authorities to reconsider the modernization of air defense devices in the medium term.

kim jong un mig29 north korea Defense News | Fighter aircraft | Military aircraft construction
North Korea only has around thirty MIG29s, the most modern of its approximately 500 fighter aircraft.

With Japan et the Netherlands, it is therefore the 3rd country using F35As to order new copies of the aircraft this year. It seems that, if Lockheed's stealth plane is not without defects, it still gives satisfaction to the air forces that use it, while the American manufacturer presented its development plan for the device to provide it with “6th generation” capabilities, and try to pull the rug out from under the Tempest and other European FCAS. A threat not to be overlooked in Europe, especially since European programs do not plan to enter service before 2035 or 2040, leaving ample time for the F35 to lock in the majority of the addressable market...

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