Tuesday, September 24, 2013

F-35: South Korea reopens bidding for its new fleet of fighter jets

This doesn't at all come as a surprise to me:
South Korea will restart an $8bn tender for a new fleet of fighter jets after a three-way race between Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the Eurofighter consortium failed to produce a winner.

The defence ministry’s announcement on Tuesday followed weeks of domestic controversy. The government, under pressure to meet ambitious social spending pledges, had looked set to choose Boeing’s F-15 jet as a cheaper alternative to Lockheed Martin’s more advanced F-35.

Instead Seoul has reopened one of the year’s most lucrative bidding wars in the defence industry, as it seeks to upgrade its ageing air force with 60 new jets. New bids will be invited and a final decision made within the next year, with a possibility of procuring planes from more than one bidder, said the defence ministry.
If you've read any of the history of the bidding you know that the South Korean Airforce wants the F-35, not the F-15.  And you also know that they have been putting unending pressure on the politicians to get them that aircraft.

So, there's a method to this madness, or so it seems:
Other analysts have continuously cautioned that South Korea’s comments regarding Boeing’s favoured position were not to be taken seriously and were simply a negotiating tool to push the Washington to drop its price of the F-35.

The US is acting as Lockheed Martin’s broker and is keen to sell its most advanced fighter to help reduce its own $1.5tn bill for the aircraft by gaining economies of scale, or having the option of redirecting aircraft earmarked for the US to others. Despite many delays and cost overruns, the F-35 is the Pentagon’s main fighter of the future and it wants a common fleet among its closest allies. 
I think this analysis is pretty spot on and is likely to be how it all turns out.  Note too, that Boeing may not be completely shut out of this.  South Korea may order a mixed fleet, with the F-35 being the predominant aircraft.  But anyone who believed the South Korean bidding process was over when Boeing was announced as the "winner" wasn't paying close enough attention to the internal politics of the situation.  We'll see if the ROK Airforce eventually gets its way.



  1. Cue the indignation from the anti-JSF crowd...

    1. Bill Sweetman may have an apoplectic fit

    2. Don't forget, Marine armor hangs in the balance.....

    3. oh, that too :)

    4. lol! I don't know how you deal with that.