Friday, November 22, 2013

Update! South Korea buys 40 F-35s... Instead of 60.

40 of these instead of 60 F-15SEs
Despite initially disqualifying the F-35 on the grounds it was too expensive, South Korea has now decided to bite the bullet and order 40 units instead of the planned 60 fighters intended to be purchased under the FX-III program.

There is still a provision to obtain 20 more aircraft of type to be determined later.  This likely could mean an additional 20 F-35s, or some type of "Advanced F-15 Eagle".

Many of you will remember that out of the three aircraft being considered, the F-35 was the first eliminated due to its high cost.  The Eurofighter Typhoon was eliminated shortly thereafter on the grounds that the bid did not include enough two-seater aircraft.  This was odd considering the F-35 does not even have a two-seater version.  With the F-35 and Typhoon both disqualified, Boeing's F-15SE Silent Eagle was declared the de facto winner.

Don't break out the champagne just yet...
South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff (JCS) were so adamant about obtaining the stealthier F-35 that they refused to accept the F-15SE.  The program was reopened with only one real option:  The F-35.

Instead of getting the planned 60 aircraft, South Korea will only be able to afford 40 F-35s under its 8.3 trillion Won ($7.8 billion US) budget.  How Seoul will fill out that 20 aircraft difference remains to be seen, but they won't be scheduled for delivery until around 2023.  More than likely, the JCS will push for more F-35s, as Korea's indigenous fighter, the KFX, will likely not be ready by then, and the F-15 will more than likely be out of production, as will the F-16.

South Korean F-35s are planned for delivery beginning in 2018.

For Canada, South Korea's announcement should be a sobering reminder of just how expensive the F-35 is.  Just like The Netherlands, South Korea has had to drastically cut the number of fighters planned in order to afford the F-35.  If Canada intends of purchasing 65 fighters (down from the 79 CF-18s currently in service), its becoming clear that we will need to spend more.

Or...  We could always follow the Dutch and Korean example order less, but the higher-ups at the DND have already stated that 65 fighters is the "bare minimum" needed.

So what's it going to be for Canada?  Up the budget?  Order less fighters?  Get a mixed force?  Or skip the F-35 entirely and go for something more affordable?

6 comments:

  1. In your post named "in favor of a Korean F-35", you gave interesting arguments. But this post reminds me that the tender had some specific conditions, such as the price and the two-seats configuration for a given number of aircraft (15). The fact that ROKAF has to procure only two third of the planned purchase, only with single-seats aircrafts seems significant.
    First, ROKAF will have to do the same missions with less aircrafts. Second, I don't know precisely the reason of the 15 two-seaters aircraft need, but that could be training. Anyway, ROKAF probably needs that to do what they WANT.

    So, basicaly, that's not ROKAF which chooses its weapon of choice, that's ROKAF which has to ADAPT to the chosen one.


    Not mention the fact that Eurofighter could claim that their 'not enough two-seaters" problem isn't relevant anymore, because the main competitor hasn't even a two seats configuration...


    Anyway, 40 F-35 for a $7.8 billion budget, that's (again) pretty high for a $75 million unit price aircraft...

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  2. You're right about that math! ($7.8 billion/40 planes = $195 million/plane!). That would also include training, spares, etc, but the grim reality is that the F-35 is WAY more than the $75-90 million/copy that's being marketed.

    More jets ordered would likely drop the unit price down, but not THAT much.

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  3. Yeah, but something doesn't add up :
    S. Korea : 40 planes ==> $7.8 billion
    Netherlands : 37 planes ==> $6 billion


    That's a huge difference for 3 planes, even for a program's member.
    Maybe Netherlands was overly optimistic about the drop in unit price at the production peak...

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  4. After watching the results in both South Korea and the Netherlands, one can only assume that Canada will buy 30 to 35 Greased Lightning 2s, and lower the purchased numbers. I'm not sure how a higher price tag for more fighters is going to sit with the Canadian public, with news, now of cost over runs with the new Ice breakers and replenishment ships. I suspect that if the PCs are behind in the polls running up to the next election, they will lock us in to the F-35 deal probably with a hand shake and a thank you (wink,wink) from LM and stick Canadians with the deal, like the Cyclones........It a shame really. All though not a fan off the F-35, it was presented wrongly to the Korean people, it should have been presented as a new capability, to counter nuclear threats vs an F-5 replacement. They could buy some NGs later on the cheap for that :)

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  5. Oh, and of course the whole 2 sweater thing is laughable, they could have discounted the Typhoon because they didn't like the colour.........

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  6. I really hope your right! I have this fear that the tail is wagging the dog and ultimately LM is calling the shots here. They will convince NORAD to change the amount of fighters required or/and the USAF could 'cover' some of 'North Americas' airspace, or we will buy 35/37 with the the promis to purchase the rest later when they are even less expensive ( I was going to use cheaper, but it just didn't fit...lol)...

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