SEOUL Jan 27 South Korea plans to sign a deal
to buy 40 fighter jets in the third quarter, its arms
procurement agency said on Monday, and its plan to acquire
Lockheed Martin Corp F-35s appears on track despite
possible development delays.
"With changes made in procurement plans from February to
March, followed by committee approval, we will work to sign a
contract around the third quarter," Jung Kwang-sun, the head of
aircraft programmes at the Defense Acquisition Program
Administration (DAPA), told reporters.
South Korea decided to redraw the terms of its 8.3 trillion
won ($7.68 billion) tender to buy 60 fighters last year,
reducing the number in December to an initial 40 jets after
rebuffing Boeing Co's F-15s.
Although not yet finalised, South Korea has signalled its
intention to buy F-35As since its Joint Chiefs endorsed a need
in December for "cutting-edge stealth" jets for first delivery
"After judging through many channels, we have heard that
there is no problem in (the U.S. Air Force) adopting the F-35A
by 2016 and we believe there will be no problem by 2018," Jung
The remark comes after a Pentagon report seen by Reuters and
published on Thursday said a possible 13-month delay in F-35
software development, coupled with maintenance and reliability
problems, could stall the U.S. Marine Corps' plans to start
using its F-35B fighter jets from mid-2015.
"We're buying F-35As, not (F-35)Bs. Not only that, it's the
nature of being in development to encounter problems and solve
them," a DAPA official with direct knowledge of the fighter jet
procurement process told Reuters. The official was not
authorized to speak to media.
South Korea's parliament approved some 366.4 billion won for
the fighter programme in 2014, in line with South Korea's plan
to finalise its choice of jets and make initial payments this