Even after budget cuts, brass wants stealth plane

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Even after budget cuts, brass wants stealth plane

South Korea is moving to introduce the fifth generation of stealth fighter jets at an early date to replace its aging Air Force fighters, and to secure capabilities to counter North Korea’s increasing provocations, government sources said yesterday.

The move comes after the National Assembly cut the defense ministry’s request for some 15.7 billion won ($14 million) to launch a new fighter jet program this year, granting only 300 million won.

“There is a growing consensus within the government that the next-generation fighter program must be launched at an early date,” a government source said, asking not to be identified.

“There is only a 300 million won fund for research this year, but [the government] may allocate additional funds from its defense budget if necessary,” he added.

South Korea purchased 60 F-15K fighter jets from U.S. manufacturer Boeing under an earlier program, known as FX II, and is set to have some of the remaining 20 aircraft from the program delivered before the end of next year.

The military earlier sought to launch an FX III program this year to have new fighter jets commissioned in 2016.

The government now seeks to introduce new stealth fighters before the target year.

“It usually takes about four years for the first shipment of aircraft after a contract is signed, which means the new aircraft can be commissioned from as early as 2015,” said an official from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.

The recent increase of frequency and intensity of North Korean attacks is apparently adding to the military’s urgent sense of a need to introduce stealth fighter jets, after the country once considered introducing fighter jets with only partial stealth capabilities.

“There has been a call for the military’s increased capabilities for precision strikes since North Korea’s provocations in the northwestern region last year,” a government source said. “And this has also led to a growing voice in the government to speed up the next fighter jet program.”

The new fighter jet program is expected to be worth some 10 trillion won ($8.97 billion). Possible candidates for jets include Boeing’s F-15SE and Lockheed Martin’s F-35, sources said.


Related Korean Article [중앙일보]

“한국군, 이르면 2015년 스텔스기 띄운다”
김관진, 차세대 전투기 조기 착수 지시 … 중국‘젠-20’ 일본‘신신’과 스텔스 전쟁

적군의 레이더에 잡히지 않는 스텔스 기능을 갖춘 5세대 전투기가 2016년께 우리 군에 도입될 전망이다. 군은 2016년부터 모두 60대의 차세대 항공기를 들여와 운영할 자체 계획을 세웠으나 지난해 말 예산 당국과 국회의 반대에 부딪혀 올 국방예산에 차세대 전투기(FX 3차 사업) 착수금 157억원을 반영하지 못했다.

그러나 최근 정부와 군에서 사업을 조기에 착수하는 쪽으로 분위기가 바뀌었다고 군 당국자는 전했다. 이에 따라 이르면 2015년 스텔스 전투기를 도입할 수 있을 것이란 전망도 나온다. 군 당국자는 “김관진 국방부 장관이 지난 24일 방위사업청 업무보고 당시 (FX 3차 사업을) 빨리 추진하는 방안을 마련하라고 지시했다”며 “국민에게 진행 절차를 솔직하게 설명하고 장애물을 없애 빨리 진행하라고 강조했다”고 덧붙였다.

정부가 차세대 전투기 사업에 속도를 내는 것은 북한의 천안함 폭침과 연평도 공격으로 드러난 비대칭 전력에 대해 공군의 정밀타격 능력을 높이기 위한 차원으로 보인다. 한나라당 유승민 의원(국방위원회)은 “북한의 장사정포 등 비대칭전력을 극복하기 위해 첨단 항공기 확보가 시급하다”고 …

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