|Goldilocks be damned. Too expensive, not enough two-seat models, not stealthy enough.|
As previously reported here, South Korea's K-X competition between the F-35A Lightning II, Eurofighter Typhoon, and F-15SE "Silent Eagle"was for 60 jet fighters to replace aging F-4s and F-5s. A hard and fast budget of 8.3 trillion won (US$7.2 billion) was set. The F-35, in which the unit cost is still very much in flux, was the first eliminated. It could not be delivered at a fixed price due to U.S. foreign military sales regulations.
Shortly after, the Eurofighter Typhoon, very much the dark horse of the competition due to close S. Korean and U.S. ties, was eliminated. Eurofighter's bid, while under budget, was dismissed because it didn't include enough two-seater models in its offer. South Korea wanted 15, Eurofighter's bid only included 6. According to Eurofighter, it was led to believe that S. Korea's wish for 15 two-seat models was merely preference, not a requirement. Easy to believe considering that the F-35 does not even offer a two-seat model.
|Winner? Not so fast...|
With the F-35 and Typhoon eliminated, the Silent Eagle became the de facto winner. It certainly seemed like a natural fit, as South Korea already operates the similar F-15K "Slam Eagle", and the similarities between the two models would likely result in future cost savings.
But now, the F-15SE is being dropped by South Korea on the basis that it is not stealthy enough. This means a new competition, with a new budget, and possibly a new set of requirements, will emerge.
Of course, some serious questions will be asked.
- Was the Silent Eagle disqualified because the higher ups at the ROKAF really, really want the F-35 instead?
- If the Typhoon was eliminated because it couldn't get enough two-seat models included under budget, why does the single-seat only F-35 bid not have to include any?
- Is the ROKAF placing too much value on stealth?
- What will the political ramifications be for breaking the budget?
- How long is this F-X competition going to on for?