S.Korea to Take More Discreet Delivery of New Fighter Jet

  • By Jun Hyun-suk

    March 19, 2018 09:48

    The military is toning down a handover ceremony for a batch of new F-35A state-of-the-art fighters from the U.S. as an inter-Korean summit looms. The jets, which cost W7.3 trillion, are intended to counter the nuclear and missile threat from North Korea (US$1=W1,067).

    The event will be held at the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, Texas on March 28. Air Force Chief of Staff Lee Wang-keun and Jeon Jei-guk, the chief of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, both abruptly canceled plans to attend.

    "Neither can attend the ceremony," a military spokesman said. "Lee must stay in the country to maintain military preparedness while [President Moon Jae-in] is on an overseas trip, and Jeon will accompany the president."

    The military will not invite reporters either.

    The stealth fighter is a key part of the "kill chain" preemptive strike system of the South Korean military, avoiding radar detection to strike the North's nuclear and missile facilities and key installations of the regime like the presidential palace in Pyongyang.

    South Korea was keen to buy them in its regional arms race with China and Japan. Japan already has F-35As, while China has deployed stealth jets developed with its own technology.

    Seoul is buying 40 F-35As altogether by 2021, each priced at over W120 billion, bringing the total price to W7.34 trillion including munitions and other weapons.

    A military officer said, "It's a pity that the roll-out will be scaled down given how important they are and how much they cost."

    "It's hard to understand why the government is scaling down the ceremony of the fighter jet, a key weapon in our response to North Korea's threats, although there has been no change in the cross-border military confrontation," a retired general said.

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