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S. Korea Committee Endorses Additional F-35 Procurement

A South Korean government defense subcommittee has endorsed a plan to procure 20 additional F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets, according to media reports.

The Defense Project Promotion Committee’s subcommittee plan will see the aircraft start arriving from 2023 through the decade for an estimated cost of 3.9 trillion won ($3 billion).

The plan will be tabled at a full committee session on July 13. If approved, the state Defense Acquisition Program Administration will begin a feasibility study, Yonhap News Agency reported.

South Korean Air Force’s F-35A fighters performing an elephant walk at an unidentified airbase on March 25, 2022. Image: South Korean Defense Ministry

To Strengthen Kill Chain Against North

The approval comes months after the country deployed a fleet of 40 F-35s in January that cost $6.4 billion.

The 2014 agreement between the US and South Korea to procure the aircraft mentioned that an additional 20 aircraft could be bought depending on the security situation. 

According to the media outlet, the proposal didn’t gain much traction under the previous Moon Jae-in administration, which tried to mend ties with Pyongyang. 

However, the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration is beefing up the country’s defenses against an evolving North Korean nuclear and missile threat.

The additional F-35s would strengthen the “Kill Chain preemptive strike program” to take out the North’s missile and command and control centers in the event of war. 

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