In a bid to enhance its defense capabilities, South Korea has decided to procure an additional 20 F-35A stealth fighter jets from the U.S.. The decision comes in light of mounting military threats from Kim Jong Un‘s North Korea.
What Happened: On Wednesday, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) acknowledged the signing of a contract with the U.S. government earlier this month, as reported by Yonhap News Agency.
The deal follows the U.S. government’s approval of the sale in September. The newly acquired jets, manufactured by American aerospace giant Lockheed Martin LMT, add to the 39 F-35As currently in the possession of the South Korean Air Force.
The 20 F-35As, slated for delivery in 2027, will endow the Air Force with improved operational and security capacities. The F-35A stealth fighter jet is a vital resource for the South Korean military, providing high-performance radar and stealth features for strategic long-range strikes.
With this recent procurement, South Korea aims to fortify its “three-axis” defense system, devised to incapacitate North Korean leadership in the event of a significant conflict. Despite North Korea’s larger fleet of fighter jets, experts suggest their operational rate is significantly low due to inadequate maintenance and lack of parts.
Why It Matters: The purchase comes at a time when tensions between South Korea and North Korea are escalating. North Korea’s potential testing of a ballistic missile capable of reaching the U.S. mainland was hinted at by Kim Tae-hyo, South Korea’s Principal Deputy National Security Adviser, earlier this month.
Later, an emergency U.N. Security Council meeting was convened due to North Korea’s ICBM launch, further straining relations between the U.S., South Korea, and their allies. North Korea’s U.N. Ambassador, Kim Song, described the current situation as “the most dangerous year” for security on the Korean Peninsula, attributing the risk of a “nuclear war” to increased U.S.-South Korean military activities and the U.S.’s deployment of nuclear-powered submarines and other nuclear assets.
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