South Korea to Speed Up Deployment of Stealth Fighters, Spy Drones

By on Friday, March 11th, 2011

The Ministry of National Defense said Tuesday that it will speed up plans to deploy stealth jet fighters and high-altitude spy drones to build up its surveillance capability and bolster deterrence toward North Korea.

In a news conference, Defense Minister Kim Kwan-jin said his ministry will “push the third and final phase of the F-X fighter acquisition program with stealth capabilities at an appropriate date.”

Military sources have talked about the possibility of next generation stealth fighter jets being introduced several times. However, this was the first time that the ministry made public the acquisition plan officially.

The third phase of the F-X fighter acquisition program calls for obtaining 60 fifth generation combat aircraft from around 2015 to 2021.

Initially, the Air Force sought to launch the final phase of the F-X fighter acquisition program this year, but the plan has been delayed due to budgetary problems.

An F-15K costs more than 100 billion won. As a result, more than 7 trillion won will be needed to introduce 60 new fighter jets. If stealth capabilities are added, the project will cost more than 8.2 trillion won.

The presidential office has argued that there is no need to speed up the F-X plan which needs a huge amount of money.

Potential candidates for new jets include the F-15SE, Lockheed Martin’s F-35 and Eurofighter’s Typhoon.

South Korea asked the United States last year to sell it the U.S.-made RQ-4 Global Hawk spy planes, ministry sources said.

Calls for reform of the military have been growing since North Korea’s torpedo attack on a South Korean warship in March last year that killed 46 sailors. Eight months later, the North launched a sudden artillery barrage on a South Korean island near the western sea border, killing two marines and two civilians.

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