S.Korea to review bids next week on $7.3 bln fighter jet deal-official

SEOUL, July 11 Thu Jul 11, 2013 12:36am EDT

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SEOUL, July 11 (Reuters) - South Korea is set to decide next week whether to proceed with an auction on supplying 60 next generation fighter jets worth 8.3 trillion won ($7.31 billion) after rounds of failed bidding, a defence official said on Thursday.

The defence minister will chair a meeting next Wednesday to review the failed bidding process so far. A range of options can be considered, include restarting the process from scratch, an official at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.

DAPA suspended bidding after none of the entries, Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35, Boeing Co's F-15 and EADS's Eurofighter Typhoon, submitted bids meeting the required price.

"If the auction falls apart, we will consider all possible options, possibly including splitting the purchase, and find the best solution," the official said.

South Korea has been pushing to buy 60 fighters to replace its ageing jets, such as F-5s and F-4s, starting from 2017, in order to better face threats posed by North Korea's missile and nuclear programmes.

Given the close military ties with the United States, experts said U.S. manufacturers are favoured over Eurofighter.

However, differences over price have delayed the final selection, which DAPA previously said was planned in June.

Apart from capabilities of the individual aircraft, South Korea is also focusing on the offset value of the bids and the assistance that competitors will offer for its homegrown fighter jet development programme.

A couple walks along the rough surf during sunset at Oahu's North Shore, December 26, 2013. REUTERS/Kevin Lamarque

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