South Korea seems to be favoring F-35

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The South Korean air force rates all of the Western competitors for its F-X Phase 3 fighter program, including the F-35 Lightning, as capable of meeting the in-service date of 2016, an assessment that appears to raise the chances of the F-35 Lockheed Martin aircraft.

The Korean air force said in an unpublished briefing paper that the Eurofighter Typhoon is in service and can therefore meet the schedule. Although it notes that the F-35 and the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle are not fully developed, the air force believes they can be ready in time.

That judgment is less important for the F-15SE than for the F-35. But for the Lightning the air force’s assessment seems to sweep aside concerns that, while the stealth fighter is especially well suited to the air-to-ground part of the F-X Phase 3 requirement, its repeatedly delayed development schedule has become uncomfortably tight for South Korea’s needs.

The U.S. Air Force does not expect its F-35As to be operational until 2018. Its definition of initial operational capability is more demanding than South Korea’s, but the U.S. schedule offers little reassurance for potential buyers that would need the aircraft earlier.

Even if the South Korean air force’s assessment is not realistic, the expression of that view at least means that the service is willing to proceed as if the F-35 complies fully with its requirements.


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