started the bidding process Tuesday to pick a contractor to provide 60 advanced fighter jets for US$7.3 billion, the Defense Acquisition Program and Administration (DAPA) said. Seoul faces a tough decision in selecting either the Lockheed Martin’s F-35 Lightning II stealth jet, ’s F-15 Silent Eagle or the European Aerospace Defense and Space Company (EADS)’s Tranche 3 , to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.
The bidding is expected to last 11 days, and once completed DAPA will assess the three jets before making a final decision in a meeting slated for early next month, officials said. Seoul has officially said they are looking for affordable yet highly capable aircraft, but many expect the companies will propose prices that exceed Seoul’s budget and adopt a wait-and-see approach during the competitive bidding sessions.
If prices proposed by the three firms exceed the budget approved by parliament last year, the acquisition plan will need to be re-examined by the finance ministry, which handles state budget allocations.