The American Foreign Military Sales, or FMS, announced that it had authorized the order of 25 additional F-35As for the South Korean air forces for $5 billion. This announcement comes as Kim Jong-Un's visit to Russia could reshuffle the balance of power on the Korean peninsula.
A little over a year ago, the order for the third and final tranche of 20 F-35 Lightning 2s for the South Korean air force gave rise to much hesitation and speculation.
The question then was whether Seoul would choose F-35Bs with vertical or short takeoff and landing, particularly to equip its future aircraft carrier whose fate is still uncertain, or whether the land version F-35A, of which 40 examples were already in service. within the South Korean Air Force, would be preferred.
The suspense ended in July 2022, when Seoul decided in favor of the land-based version of the Lockheed-Martin fighter , with a planned budget of $3 billion for the 20 aircraft in the FX program.
25 additional F-35As for the South Korean air force
It took a year to negotiate all aspects of this contract, the outlines of which have just been outlined by Foreign Military Sales . Thus, it will not be 20, but 25 F-35As which will be acquired by the South Korean air forces.
These will be delivered directly to the Block 4 standard, the one which should make it possible to achieve the full operational capacity of the fighter. The order is accompanied by 26 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 turbojets, as well as a certain number of parts and equipment.
If the scope of the order initially planned increased by 25% with the order of 5 additional fighters, the budget envelope, for its part, exploded, reaching $5 billion according to the FMS quotation, an increase of 66% .
A $5 billion envelope for the FMS
However, this increase must be weighed by several parameters. First, the FMS is accustomed to “thinking broadly” when it comes to the support package for major contracts, and very often, the final contract is more compact than that initially proposed by the Pentagon.
On the other hand, these devices should not be delivered for 4 or 5 years. It is therefore appropriate to take into account, in the listing, the effects of inflation in the United States, but also potential changes in raw material prices, in an uncertain geopolitical context.
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