South Korea is to reopen a competition for 20 new fighter jets after Boeing emerged as the sole bidder in the first round. Boeing, which is offering the F-15, was the only manufacturer to respond to a request for proposals (RFP) by last week's deadline. The consortium behind the Eurofighter Typhoon had sent representatives to a meeting on the competition in March and had been expected to submit a bid, but it has now decided to stay away.

Seoul is keen for a contest in the 2.3 trillion won ($2.5 billion) K-X programme to dispel claims that it is biased towards US military hardware. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration, in charge of all South Korean military procurements, says: "We are planning to invite bidders once again. If that fails, we will consider other alternatives."

Industry sources, however, say the second bid is unlikely to elicit further responses and that the DAPA could begin negotiations with Boeing for a sole source contract. The US major won a deal in 2002 to supply 40 F-15K jets by 2008.

Representatives from Lockheed Martin had attended last month's meeting, but the company does not have any aircraft that fits this twin-engine requirement apart from the F-22 Raptor, which has not been approved for export by the US congress.

European manufacturers are wary of taking part in a competition that could be weighted against them and this resulted in the Dassault Rafale and Sukhoi Su-35, which had taken part in the 2002 competition, not being offered. Eurofighter's decision not to take part is a sign that the consortium shares those concerns, say observers.

A contract for the 20 fighters is to be signed around February 2008 and for deliveries in the 2010-12 timeframe.

Source: Flight International