A subcommittee of South Korea's state defense procurement committee has endorsed a basic proposal to purchase some 20 F-35A radar-evading fighters, Seoul officials said Wednesday.
The Defense Project Promotion Committee's subcommittee approved it on June 9 in a push for a 3.9 trillion won ($3 billion) project to introduce the fighters, manufactured by the US defense giant Lockheed Martin from 2023 through the mid to late 2020s.
The approval came as the conservative Yoon Suk-yeol administration is striving to beef up defense capabilities to counter North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
The South's military completed the deployment of 40 F-35As in January under its first fifth-generation warplane procurement project. It plans to add more to the current F-35A fleet under the envisioned second project.
The proposal is likely to be tabled at a full committee session slated for July 13, according to the officials. If passed, the state Defense Acquisition Program Administration plans to carry out a feasibility study and other follow-up procedures.
The new fighter project is expected to help the Yoon administration's push to strengthen the "Kill Chain" preemptive strike program consisting of key strike assets like high-end combat aircraft.
Over the last several years, the efforts to bring in new stealth fighters gained little momentum, as the preceding liberal Moon Jae-in administration pushed for inter-Korean rapprochement. (Yonhap)