F-15 Silent Eagle: Why South Korea rejected this jet

F-15 Silent Eagle: South Korea officials now like the stealth capability of Lockheed Martin's F-35A better than Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle. 

REUTERS/Paul Weatherman/Lockheed Martin/US Air Force/Handout via Reuters/Files
An F-35A Lightning II aircraft flies above the compass rose at Edwards Air Force Base, Calif. in 2011. South Korea says it now prefers this jet over the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle.

South Korea's government bowed to public pressure on Tuesday and voted down a bid by Boeing to supply 60 F-15 Silent Eagle jets, saying it would restart the multi-billion dollar tender process to get a more advanced fighter.

Lockheed Martin's F-35A, previously considered too expensive, has shot to the front of the line in the race for the contract after the defense ministry singled out a fifth-generation fighter as the preferred option.

The fifth generation F-35A, complete with its hi-tech stealth capability, has already been ordered by seven countries, including Japan and Israel.

Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle had been in the box seat to win the 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) tender - as the only bid to fall within budget - but former military top brass and even the ruling party's lawmakers had criticized the plane as it lacked crucial stealth capabilities.

"Our air force thinks that we need combat capabilities in response to the latest trend of aerospace technology development centered around the fifth generation fighter jets and to provocations from North Korea," defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.

A third bid by the Eurofighter consortium's Typhoon was also ruled out for going over the finance ministry's budget. Under South Korean law, only bids under budget are eligible to win defense contracts.

A deal with Boeing or Lockheed Martin was seen as the most likely by experts because of South Korea's close military alliance with the United States against the belligerent North.

The South Korean government and air force will map out a fresh tender process and consider a new budget. The defense ministry said it could take around one year to complete the new tender round.

"DAPA...will swiftly pursue the program again in order to minimize the vacuum in combat capabilities," South Korea's Defense Acquistion Program Administration (DAPA), which led the assessment of the fighters, said in a statement.


The collapse of the deal, however, means a fresh start to Lockheed Martin, which has recently taken a new order from the Netherlands for the F-35. Britain, Australia, Italy, Norway, Israel and Japan have also placed orders.

Increased production of the aircraft will potentially allow Lockheed to lower its tender bid. Earlier this month, a U.S. Air Force general said he was committed to continue lowering its F-35 programme cost.

"We will continue to support the U.S. government in its offer of the F-35A to Korea," Lockheed Martin's South Korean representative said after the decision.

U.S. military officials say the biggest strength of the F-35 is its ability to fuse data from other aircraft and sensors, allowing it to help identify targets for other fighters, and essentially command the battlefield.

South Korea's decision marked a defeat for Boeing, which has spent significant amounts of its own money developing the Silent Eagle variant of the F-15.

Last month, 15 South Korean former air force chiefs signed a petition opposing the selection of F-15, saying it lacked the stealth capabilities of more modern aircraft.

Boeing said in a statement it was deeply disappointed by Tuesday's decision, saying it had rigorously followed the DAPA's instructions throughout the entire process.

"We await details from DAPA on its basis for the delay while evaluating our next options," Boeing said.

A DAPA official said South Korea had followed the rules in the bidding process, but declined to comment on possible legal action by Boeing.

A local representative of the Eurofighter consortium said it would participate when the project restarted.

The DAPA had earlier estimated that any delay in the tender process could leave the South Korean air force 100 fighters short of the 430 jets deemed necessary by 2019.

Given delays that pushed back first delivery by three years to 2017, and a total budget fixed without wriggle room, top decision-makers had been keen to buy jets as soon as possible to partially replace ageing F-4 and F-5 fighters and maintain combat capabilities.

You've read  of  free articles. Subscribe to continue.
Real news can be honest, hopeful, credible, constructive.
What is the Monitor difference? Tackling the tough headlines – with humanity. Listening to sources – with respect. Seeing the story that others are missing by reporting what so often gets overlooked: the values that connect us. That’s Monitor reporting – news that changes how you see the world.

Dear Reader,

About a year ago, I happened upon this statement about the Monitor in the Harvard Business Review – under the charming heading of “do things that don’t interest you”:

“Many things that end up” being meaningful, writes social scientist Joseph Grenny, “have come from conference workshops, articles, or online videos that began as a chore and ended with an insight. My work in Kenya, for example, was heavily influenced by a Christian Science Monitor article I had forced myself to read 10 years earlier. Sometimes, we call things ‘boring’ simply because they lie outside the box we are currently in.”

If you were to come up with a punchline to a joke about the Monitor, that would probably be it. We’re seen as being global, fair, insightful, and perhaps a bit too earnest. We’re the bran muffin of journalism.

But you know what? We change lives. And I’m going to argue that we change lives precisely because we force open that too-small box that most human beings think they live in.

The Monitor is a peculiar little publication that’s hard for the world to figure out. We’re run by a church, but we’re not only for church members and we’re not about converting people. We’re known as being fair even as the world becomes as polarized as at any time since the newspaper’s founding in 1908.

We have a mission beyond circulation, we want to bridge divides. We’re about kicking down the door of thought everywhere and saying, “You are bigger and more capable than you realize. And we can prove it.”

If you’re looking for bran muffin journalism, you can subscribe to the Monitor for $15. You’ll get the Monitor Weekly magazine, the Monitor Daily email, and unlimited access to CSMonitor.com.

QR Code to F-15 Silent Eagle: Why South Korea rejected this jet
Read this article in
QR Code to Subscription page
Start your subscription today