As tensions continue to rise on the Korean peninsula – with the Republic of Korea (South Korea) sending tanks and troops to the DMZ – the government in Seoul could rest easy in knowing that its air force will be bolstered by early next year with 40 additional F-35A stealth fighters. South Korea already received 13 F-35A fighters in 2019.
Lockheed Martin Corp.’s LMT business unit won a $183 million modification contract for the F-35 Lightning II, and work-related as part of the deal is expected to be completed by January of next year, according to a report from Zacks Equity Research. The deal calls for Lockheed to offer additional operation, security and technical services to support the program and work will be executed at the company’s facilities in Fort Worth, Texas.
The recent contract modification follows the $675 million deal that the U.S. State Department approved in April, as part of the Pentagon’s foreign military sales program. According to the Defense Security Cooperation Agency, the deal would fund support and services for South Korea’s F-35 aircraft, engines, weapons and related equipment. Government and contractor technical and logistics support services; and other related elements of program support will also be provided.
DSCA said in a statement that the “proposed sale would support the foreign policy and national security objectives of the United states by meeting legitimate security and defense needs of one of its closest allies in the INDOPACOM Theater. The Republic of Korea is one of the major political and economic powers in East Asia and the Western Pacific and a key partner of the United States in ensuring peace and stability in the region.”
South Korea, which has become one of Asia’s economic tigers and is far more technologically advanced than its northern rival, has also developed a robust domestic arms industry – but it has also remained a key partner in the F-35 program.
By 2021, South Korea is also expected to have the third-biggest stealth fighting operation in Asia.
The F-35 currently dominates the combat aircraft market as it combines advance stealth capabilities with fighter speed and agility. And while it has been estimated that the cost of the program could exceed $1.5 trillion dollars, the program has been seen as the one of the most lethal but also cost-effective fighter programs today.
As financial analysts have also noted F-35 contracts such as this one with South Korea should be seen as a win for the Pentagon and U.S. allies. These bring the overall cost of the aircraft down, while production of the jets is only expected to continue. The U.S. military has a current inventory target of 2,456 aircraft for the Air Force, Navy and Marine Corps.
In May, an F-35A Lightning II assigned to the 58th Fighter Squadron crashed upon landing at Eglin Air Force Base, Fla. It was only the third such crash involving the Joint Strike Fighter – which had an otherwise excellent safety record. Aircraft manufacturer Lockheed Martin reported that the fleet of F-35s hit 250,000 flight hours this past March.
Peter Suciu is a Michigan-based writer who has contributed to more than four dozen magazines, newspapers and websites. He is the author of several books on military headgear including A Gallery of Military Headdress, which is available on Amazon.com.