South Korea to receive first two F-35A stealth jets in March

By Allen Cone
South Korea to receive first two F-35A stealth jets in March
A pilot assigned to the 388th Fighter Wing's 34th Fighter Squadron drops a GBU-39 bomb from an F-35A Lightning II on Nov. 7. South Korea will receive the first two models of the jet in March. Photo by 86th Fighter Weapons Squadron/U.S. Air Force

Jan. 14 (UPI) -- Lockheed Martin plans to deliver the first two F-35A stealth fighter jets to South Korea in March.

The aircraft will arrive in the end of March and be deployed by May, The Korean Times and the South China Morning Post reported Sunday.


The F-35A, which features conventional takeoff and landing, is one of three variants of the single-seat, single-engine fighters.

In all, 10 fight planes will be delivered by the end of the year. Before arriving in Korea, they will stop in Hawaii and Guam, as well as being refueled by U.S. tankers.

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South Korea wants the F-35As to play a key role in South Korea's preemptive strike system against North Korean missile provocation.

Last month, South Korean President Moon Jae-in called for a "strong defense capability" despite negotiation with North Korea.

"Peace is being made on the Korean peninsula but it is still a precarious peace," he said.

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North Korea reacted angrily after high-ranking South Korean officials attended a ceremony for the F-35A last March at Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas.

"The South's war maniacs are indulging in a spending spree to buy F-35A Stealth jet fighters. This stems from an adventurous plot to stage a pre-emptive strike against us that goes along with US attempts to start a war," the ruling Worker's Party daily, Rodong Sinmun, said.


South Korean fighter pilots have received flight training for the jets, including the first solo mission last July, at Luke Air Base in Arizona.

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In March 2014, South Korea agreed to purchase 40 of the radar-evading strike aircraft for $6.8 billion with the final delivery by 2021.

At the time, South Korea became the third country to purchase the F-35 through the Foreign Military Sales program, joining Israel and Japan.

South Korea chose the F-35 over the F-15 Silent Eagle from Boeing and the Eurofighter Typhoon.

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