US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin on Wednesday rolled out the first of 40 F-35A fighter jet of South Korea in a ceremony held in Fort Worth, Texas, USA.
The remaining fifth-generation stealth fighters are expected to be the delivered to South Korea over the next three to four years. Under the 2014 deal, South Korea agreed to pay about $7 billion for the planes.
"Today is a truly meaningful day as we celebrate the roll-out of ROKAF's first F-35A, the world's best fighter jet, which will secure the sovereign airspace of the Republic of Korea," the Republic of Korea's Minister of Defense Song Young-moo said in a previously recorded message. "The deployment of the F-35 will serve as momentum to enhance the combined operations of the ROK-U.S. Air Forces, and advance ROKAF's support capabilities for ground operations."
The South Korean military is also considering procuring 20 additional F-35A jets sometime in mid-2020.
“It‘s true that a preliminary study is under way at the request of the military (for additional procurement),” Kang Hwan-seok, spokesman for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration was quoted as saying by Korean herald. “Once it’s done, we will craft an acquisition program strategy”.
If deployed as scheduled, the F-35A is expected to bolster South Korea’s capability to defend against North Korea’s ballistic missile threat. Equipped with precision strike capabilities, the stealth fighter will better destroy North Korea’s missile launch sites and command-and-control facilities.
“Based on advanced stealth capabilities, the F-35A will make a huge contribution to deterring the war as it can conduct selective strikes by sneaking into the enemy’s territory without further reinforcements,” the DAPA said in a statement.
The F-35A stealth fighter is capable of carrying precision-guided bombs such as Joint Direct Attack Munition and other devices for electronic warfare. Those capabilities allow the F-35A to operate deep in the North Korean territory without being shot down by the heavily-dense anti-missile system in Pyongyang.