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By Ju-min Park and Joyce Lee
SEOUL Nov 22 South Korea will buy 40 Lockheed
Martin Corp F-35 stealth fighter jets, the country's
military chiefs decided on Friday, with the first delivery
expected in 2018, ending a drawn-out process to beef up the
A Joint Chiefs of Staff meeting agreed that South Korea
would be best served by buying warplanes with the most advanced
stealth technology and electronic warfare capability. Their
decision will be put to a committee chaired by the defense
minister for final approval.
"What fits into modified requirement operational
capabilities is limited to that model," said defense ministry
spokesman Kim Min-seok when asked if the military would choose
F-35 given the revised requirements.
The decision sets in motion the South's single biggest
South Korea was initially expected to give the green light
to Boeing Co's F-15, as the aircraft was only the bidder
among three fighter jets in the race to fall within Seoul's
budget. Under South Korean law, only bids on or under budget are
But in September, South Korea decided to re-examine the
terms of the 8.3 trillion won ($7.81 billion) tender to buy 60
fighter jets after rejecting Boeing's bid.
At the time, South Korea mentioned its need for an advanced,
radar-evading jet, later mirrored by the Air Force asking for
enhanced technological requirements for the jets and bolstering
the F-35's chances.
The remaining 20 fighter jets will be open to various
models, the defense ministry spokesman Kim said.
Given the renewed process, the military and the finance
ministry will redesign the budget size, officials said.
"We expect to firm up the total budget size after
discussions with the related ministry," said Oh Tae-shik, a
senior official at the country's arms procurement agency.
(Reporting by Joyce Lee and Ju-min Park; Editing by Jeremy