Oct. 11 (UPI) — South Korea plans to purchase 20 more F-35 fighter planes from the United States, its arms procurement agency announced.
Forty of the fifth-generation stealth jets were ordered from builder Lockheed Martin in 2014 in a deal valued at about $ 6.4 billion. The first group of planes arrived in South Korea in recent months and three were displayed for the first time last week on the country’s Armed Forces Day, Oct. 1.
“The government is preparing to launch the second phase of the F-X III [the code name for South Korea’s purchased] in 2021 for the five years to come,” the Defense Acquisition Program Administration said in an Oct. 7 report to the country’s National Assembly.
It is undetermined if the sale will involve the F-35A or F-35B variant of the plane. The latter has a short takeoff and landing capability, which would be useful on the aircraft carrier South Korea intends to deploy in the early 2030s, but is more expensive than the F-35A.
The South Korea Air Force has eight F-35As, with five more expected to arrive by the end of 2019. Pilots and support personnel have been trained by the U.S. Air Force at bases within the United States.
At the Armed Forces Day celebration, South Korean President Moon Jae-in reviewed the planes, as well as missiles and artillery on display at an airbase in the southeastern part of the country. They later watched the F-35As fly in close formation.
In a speech, Moon said was “secure about the might of our military, armed with new equipment such as F-35As, that we disclosed for the first time.”