WASHINGTON — The US State Department has formally approved the sale of 25 more F-35 Joint Strike Fighters to South Korea, with an estimated price tag of $5.06 billion.
In a statement posted on the website of the Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA), the Biden administration stated that the deal “will improve the Republic of Korea’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with U.S. forces.”
South Korea already has a standing order for 40 F-35A conventional take-off and landing models, meaning the new buy would increase its fifth-gen fighter fleet by over 50 percent. The first jets were delivered in 2019. The announcement comes on the heels of a major trilateral meeting between the leaders of the US, Japan and South Korea.
The announced deal covers 25 F-35A models, alongside 26 Pratt & Whitney F135-PW-100 engines and a host of equipment. A commercial offset is expected, although details were not announced.
It’s important to note the announcement does not represent a final sale. Foreign Military Sales (FMS) cases announced like these have been approved by the executive branch for review by Congress; should the Hill not object, the quantities and dollar values in the deals can change during negotiations with industry.
In a company statement, prime contractor Lockheed Martin — which is having something of a moment in South Korea — said “We are honored the Republic of Korea (ROK) is interested in additional F-35s, continuing the near decadelong F-35 partnership with Lockheed Martin. The F-35 is the fighter jet of choice for key allies across the Indo-Pacific region who require interoperable deterrence, and we are proud to provide the F-35 as the solution to meet the ROK’s regional air defense requirement now and in the future.”