September 24, 2013 - 15:02 AMT
PanARMENIAN.Net - South Korea says it has rejected Boeing Co.'s bid to build and supply 60 new fighter jets — even though it was the sole contender in the bidding process, the Associated Press reports.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said Tuesday that South Korea has decided to delay naming a winning bidder for the 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) weapons purchase project.
“South Korea needs measures for retaliation against North Korean provocation,” he said. “South Korea needs to secure military capability in line with recent aviation technology developments.”
Boeing offered its F-15 Silent Eagle, but South Korean critics say the plane lacks state-of-the-art stealth capabilities and cannot effectively cope with North Korea's increasing nuclear threats.
Kim says South Korea must have better air power and Boeing's rejection was made in consideration of North Korea's nuclear program and other factors.
Lockheed Martin's F-35 Joint Strike Fighter and EADS' Eurofighter Typhoon earlier competed with Boeing but were eliminated for exceeding Seoul's budget cap.
“Boeing is deeply disappointed by the Republic of Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Executive Committee decision,” Boeing said in an e-mailed statement, according to Bloomberg. “Boeing has rigorously followed the Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s instructions throughout the entire process. We await details from DAPA on its basis for the delay while evaluating our next options.”
A Boeing victory would have been the first for the F-15SE over Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which is considered part of the so-called fifth generation of fighters. The single-engine jet, the world’s most expensive weapons program, is being bought by countries from the U.S. to Australia to Israel, and is being considered by Singapore, which also operates F-15s.
“Lockheed Martin will continue to support the U.S. government in its offer of the F-35A to Korea,” the company said.
South Korea may consider acquiring a mix of fighter jet models in the future, Kim said during the briefing. The budget for the jet fighter project will also be adjusted, the procurement office said in a statement.
In 2010, North Korea bombarded a South Korean island near the front-line, killing four people. That incident has led military officials to vow air strikes should another front-line provocation take place.
The purchase of new fighter jets would also boost South Korea’s ability to independently defend itself after the country takes back the wartime command of its 640,000 troops from the U.S. in 2015. That command was given to the U.S. at the onset of the Korean War and has never been returned, Bloomberg says.