South Korea could make a final decision in the F-X III competition for 60 fighters as soon as the following week, with Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle in a strong position.
Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) says it has completed the evaluation of the competing bids of the three jets involved in the competition, according to a report by state news agency Yonhap.
The report indicates that DAPA officials have briefed South Korean president Park Geun-hye about the competition, with the winner to be decided following a meeting presided over by defence minister Kim Kwan-jin on 24 September.
DAPA has indicated that the F-15SE has the edge as its bid came in below the won (W) 8.3 trillion ($7.7 billion) budget. Its rivals in the competition, the Lockheed Martin F-35 and Eurofighter Typhoon, appear to have come in over budget, which should technically eliminate them from the competition.
This could give Seoul just two options in the following week: select the F-15SE or re-tender the competition.
A major consideration among Seoul’s defence establishment is the prestige inherent in the F-35, which is seen as a more advanced option owing to its dedicated stealth features. They are keenly aware of Tokyo’s decision to buy 42 F-35s in 2011, defeating rival bids from the F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet and Typhoon.
In addition, they are aware of aircraft developments in China, where apparently stealthy types such as the Chengdu J-20 and Shenyang J-31 are undergoing flight testing.