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The F-X fighter program is a phased procurement program for fighter aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force.

F-X Phase 1[edit | edit source]

The first phase of the F-X program was started in 2002 and resulted in the procurement for ROKAF of the F-15K Slam Eagle. Four designs were reviewed the Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon, Sukhoi Su-35and the F-15K.[citation needed],

F-X Phase 2[edit | edit source]

For the second phase of the F-X program, ROKAF has purchased 21 additional F-15K to compensate for the retirement of their F-5A/B in August 2007. The avionics configuration for the Phase 1 and 2 F-15K remains largely identical, and the only differences are that the weapon compatibility has been increased (Bunker Busters, etc.) and that the engines have been switched from the F110-STW-129A to the F100-PW-229EEP, an improved version of the F100-PW-229. The new engines have commonality with the F100-PW-229 engines on the KF-16 and are compatible with each other, allowing ROKAF the option to interchange the engines among the KF-16 and Phase 2 F-15K. This allows the F-15K to be equipped with a KF-16's F100-PW-229 if necessary.

F-X Phase 3[edit | edit source]

The third phase of the F-X project is a bid for an advanced multi-role strike fighter aircraft by 2014, intended to replace the aging F-4 Phantom II and F-5. The rumored purchase number is 40-60 aircraft (9 billion dollar project). The Korean Ministry of Defense had shown interest in the F-22 Raptor, but the United States Department of Defense did not permit the export of this advanced stealth fighter. The only candidates remaining are the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the Eurofighter, and the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle. The Sukhoi PAK FA had been shortlisted by DAPA previously, but Sukhoi failed to enter the bidding competition. Saab attended the RFP meeting, but didn't bid its Saab JAS 39 Gripen.[1] DAPA had set the date of June 18, 2012 for the receipt of proposals with testing and evaluation taking place until September 2012 and with a winner due to be announced in October 2012.[2] However, both Lockheed and EADS failed to submit Korean versions of their pricing and technology transfer details, leaving Boeing as the only vendor to meet the requirement for their proposal. The proposal deadline was extended to July 5.[3][4] The RoK defense establishment had been resisting calls to delay the decision until after the presidential election.[5] The decision to purchase 60 fighters is now due to be made by mid-2013. Emphasis is being put on driving down costs, offsets, and technology transfer. Sources in South Korea say part of the focus of which aircraft to select is being heavily based on technology transfer for the indigenous KF-X aircraft program.[6] The Department of Defense formally notified the U.S. Congress of potential sales of the F-35A Lightning II and F-15SE Silent Eagle on 29 March 2013. Lockheed was pleased that the formal Congressional notification process was under way, but noted that price discussions are "on-going." Boeing feels that the F-15SE is a better bid, as it is cheaper and offers commonality with current F-15K Slam Eagles. However, Boeing's bid is more complicated because it is both a direct commercial sale and government-to-government foreign military sale. The Eurofighter Typhoon is still an option, but it is likely that South Korea will choose to purchase American aircraft, as they have previously.[7] In response, EADS has offered to manufacture 48 out of 60 Eurofighter Typhoon Tranche 3 fighters domestically in South Korea.[8] Senior South Korean government officials claim that the F-X Phase 3 competition is not aimed at defending against or striking North Korea, but for keeping pace with the fighter developments of its neighbors. With Japan's decision to buy the Lockheed F-35A, China's development of the Chengdu J-20, and Russia's work on the Sukhoi PAK FA, South Korea is in need of upgrading its fighter technology.[9] The bidding was extended because all three initial bids were above the $7.3 billion limit for the 60 aircraft (i.e. more than $121 million per aircraft).[10][11] During bidding sessions from June 18 to July 5, Boeing, Lockheed, and EADS submitted 55 separate price proposals. On 10 July 2013, DAPA temporarily suspended bidding, as they were experiencing difficulties in making the companies offer prices within the estimated budget. According to multiple sources, Lockheed did not submit either a fixed price or a maximum price during the bidding process.[12] On 25 July 2013, DAPA announced bidding would resume in "the third week of August." Analysts had said that was unlikely to close the price gap that stalled the previous bids, so DAPA is considering various options, including reviewing the project, increasing the overall budget, or even a split buy.[13] Bidding will resume from August 12–16 and has a required price of $7.45 billion. The Lockheed F-35 may face an early exit because it can not be guaranteed a fixed price. Since it is still in development, price may go up significantly and exceed the limit. Lockheed might sharply push down costs in the new round of the bidding to win the deal. The runner-up or a third place aircraft has a chance to secure a deal if either of comes to within the given budget. The F-35 may only have a chance if DAPA calls off bidding and increases the budget for the program.[14] On the final day of bidding, the F-15SE and Eurofighter Typhoon came within the given budget. DAPA admitted at least one fighter satisfied the procurement price, but declined to announce how many aircraft closed the price gap citing the ongoing procedure. As there were companies that offered price within budget, they will proceed to the next step. DAPA will evaluate all three fighters before a committee meeting and pick a winner by September. Any aircraft that exceeds the budget will not be signed for the contract. There is the possibility that there will be no winner.[15] After Boeing reduced their bid on the F-15SE and the other two were disqualified, the F-15SE appeared to have won the competition, but this will not be confirmed until mid-September 2013.[16] EADS maintains that the Eurofighter remains in the race and Lockheed said they had not received any official notification regarding bidding results, although sources said the F-35's bid was over-budget.[17] Boeing also says they have not received any official notification from the Republic of Korea regarding a decision.[18] Some South Korean Air Force officials are still pushing for an F-35 order to use for technology transfer for its KF-X domestic fighter program. Others say focusing on acquiring an expensive stealth fighter mainly for technology use stalls the intention of the F-X Phase 3 program to replace the aging F-4s and F-5s.[19] In September 2013, DAPA said they would recommend buying the F-15SE. Ex-Air Force chiefs had insisted that a stealth plane should be chosen regardless of price. Officials did not want to lengthen the long-delayed project and expect that a radar that can detect stealth aircraft will be developed in a few years.[20] On 24 September 2013, the defense ministry rejected the award and said a new competition would be held to "secure military capability in line with recent aviation technology developments."[21] The more advanced aircraft would allow for preemptive strikes against North Korea's nuclear capability and would also better match the fifth generation fighters of Japan and China.[22] As the Phase 3 project restarted, consideration was given to a split buy with only 20 to 40 stealth fighters,[23] or a smaller initial buy with options to pay for the full force later.[24] Boeing consultant Ronald Fogleman has suggested a split buy of his company's F-15SE and later the F-35A to meet South Korea's near-term and longer-term capabilities. Just buying the F-35A would leave it not fully capable until its software is updated to Block 3F standard in the early 2020s. This would reduce the strength of the South Korean Air Force after 2016 when F-4s and F-5s begin to be retired. Buying F-15SE fighters in the near-term can deliver proven payload carrying abilities until the F-35A software enhances its performance and weapons load.[25] Lockheed responded that F-35s would be fully combat capable by the time they are delivered to Korea in 2017.[26]

References[edit | edit source]

  1. Lockheed, Boeing and Eurofighter place formal bids for Seoul’s F-X III requirement - Flightglobal.com, June 12, 2012
  2. Lee, Tae-Hoon (29 January 2012). "Russia pulls out of Korea fighter project". The Korea Times. http://www.koreatimes.co.kr/www/news/nation/2012/01/113_103661.html. Retrieved 30 January 2012. 
  3. He-suk, Choi. "8.3tr won fighter jet program hits rut." Korea Herald, 21 June 2012.
  4. Tae-hoon, Lee. "Lies, false accusations hamper fighter jet program." Korea Times, 22 June 2012.
  5. Tae-hoon, Lee. "Air Force desperate on fighter project." Korea Times, 8 July 2012.
  6. Seoul weighs options in F-X III fighter contest - Flightglobal.com, January 18, 2013
  7. US reveals details of F-15SE, F-35A bids for South Korea - Flightglobal.com, April 3, 2013
  8. EADS Offers to Manufacture 48 Eurofighters in S. Korea - Oananews.org, April 5, 2013
  9. South Korea Nears F-X Phase 3 Decision - Aviationweek.com, 3 June 2013
  10. "Is Seoul Underestimating its Fighter Procurement Costs?"
  11. "South Korea extends bidding on $7.3 billion fighter jet project - media."
  12. South Korea defers bidding for F-X Fighter programme over cost issues - Airforce-Technology.com, 10 July 2013
  13. South Korea reopens bidding for stalled fighter jet competition - Newsdaily.com, 25 July 2013
  14. F-35 to be first to bow out - Koreatimes.co.kr, 29 July 2013
  15. F-15, Eurofighter vie for F-X project - Koreatimes.com, 16 August 2013
  16. "(2nd LD) Boeing's F-15SE reportedly chosen as final candidate for S. Korea's next fighter plane."
  17. Boeing Undercuts Rivals In South Korea Fighter Contest: Sources - Aviationweek.com, 19 August 2013
  18. Boeing: No Word on South Korea Fighter Deal - DoDBuzz.com, 19 August 2013
  19. South Korean Fighter Order: AF Backs F-35 - Aviationweek.com, 26 August 2013
  20. Boeing to Win Fighter Project Despite Veterans' Pleas - Chosun.com, 17 September 2013
  21. Kim, Sam (24 September 2013). "South Korea to Hold New Fighter Tender After Rejecting Boeing". BLOOMBERG L.P.. http://www.bloomberg.com/news/2013-09-23/boeing-favored-to-win-7-7-billion-south-korean-jet-fighter-deal.html. Retrieved 24 September 2013. 
  22. Lee, Joyce; Park, Ju-min (25 September 2013). "South Korea seeks stealth jet edge while North's MiGs age". reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/09/26/us-korea-fighter-idUSBRE98P04220130926. Retrieved 26 September 2013. 
  23. Sung-Ki, Jung; Mehta, Aaron (28 September 2013). "F-35 Back in S. Korea Fighter Contest". Gannett Government. http://www.defensenews.com/article/20130928/DEFREG/309280008/F-35-Back-S-Korea-Fighter-Contest. Retrieved 28 September 2013. 
  24. Govindasamy, Siva; Lee, Joyce (19 October 2013). "Buy stealth: South Korea set to go with F-35 fighters - sources". Reuters. http://uk.reuters.com/article/2013/10/29/uk-korea-fighter-idUKBRE99S0HP20131029. Retrieved 2 November 2013. 
  25. South Korea needs both F-15s and F-35s: retired USAF general - Flightglobal.com, 4 November 2013
  26. Shalal-Esa, Andrea (7 November 2013). "S.Korea would get F-35s with full combat capability -Pentagon". Thomson Reuters. http://www.reuters.com/article/2013/11/08/lockheed-fighter-idUSL2N0IT02420131108. Retrieved 7 November 2013. 

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