Press reports in Seoul on 25 August indicate that the South Korean government is set to double the number of F-35 LIGHTINING II aircraft it is procuring from the US.

An additional 40 aircraft are said to be involved, at an approximate cost of WON8 trillion (€5.7 billion), of which 20 will be the F-35B variant, to be operated by the nation’s first aircraft carrier, due to become operational early in the next decade. Priority is said to be being given to acquisition of this variant. Delivery of the additional 20 F-35As, which will supplement the 40 already on order under the original 2014 agreement, will follow the carrier-based variant.

The decision is subject to formal ratification by a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff scheduled for October. The issue of the F-35B acquisition was predicted by some in the wake of the revelation earlier in August that the National Defence Plan 2021-2025 calls for the building and commissioning of a 30,000t-class aircraft carrier.

Acquisition of the F-35B carrier-borne variant of the LIGHTNING II will bring an entirely new level of capability to the South Korean armed forces. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

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