South Korea’s First F-35s to Arrive in March Amid Easing Tensions With North

Two F-35A stealth fighter aircraft will be delivered to South Korea’s air force in March, beginning a process that will send two F-35As to South Korea each month until the end of the year.

The twin F-35As will likely be deployed by April or May, multiple insiders told South Korea’s Yonhap News Agency January 13. The aircraft will be a vital component of South Korea’s so-called Kill Chain pre-emptive attack system, a program designed to “deter” the North, reports the Diplomat.

Even though South Korea and North Korea have made numerous peaceful overtures toward one another over the past year, Seoul signed on to purchased 40 F-35A aircraft from US manufacturer Lockheed Martin. Lockheed Martin appears to be on the verge of delivering 25 percent of the 40-strong-fleet. At a pace of two aircraft deliveries per month, starting in March, there will be 10 F-35As in South Korea by the end of 2019, sources told Yonhap.

The remaining 30 F-35A aircraft will then be delivered by 2021 “as planned,” Yonhap notes. The deal to acquire the 40 F-35As was worth $7 billion. Lockheed secured the contract by offering 25 proprietary technologies on the F-35 to South Korea for Seoul’s indigenous, $15 billion K-FX fighter development program, the Diplomat noted.

Still, Washington stepped in and reportedly refused to share four technologies on the F-35A, “which detrimentally affected bilateral defense relations for a while,” the Diplomat report notes. These included the…

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