South Korea will delay inducting its new F-35A fighters, as it directs 560 billion won ($485.8 million) from its defense budget to fund an extra budget in the wake of the COVID-19 pandemic.
In July, the government passed a 34.9 trillion-won ($30.3 billion) extra budget bill aimed at propping up the economy battered by the pandemic and to support smaller businesses.
The diverted funds were earmarked for 22 projects including the introduction of F-35A fighters and improvement of Patriot missiles.
"The budget cut does not affect our plan for the operational deployment (of F-35A fighters). No changes will be made due to the extra budget bill," defense ministry spokesperson Boo Seung-chan said in a regular briefing on Monday.
“The curtailment was related to foreign exchange profits and some delays in administering the budget within this year amid the virus situation” Boo added.
In 2020, the government cut around 1.77 trillion won ($1.54 billion) from the defense budget to fund extra budget plans amid COVID-19. As per older reports, the MoD pushed payment schedules for Aegis destroyer systems and for the introduction of F-35A stealth fighters due that year, to 2021.
South Korea started induction of the advanced stealth fighters in 2019 under a under a plan to deploy 40 units through this year.