The US government has cleared the possible sale of 25 additional Lockheed Martin F-35A fighters to South Korea, setting the stage for Seoul to make a follow-on order for the low observable type.

The value of the possible F-35A sale is $5.1 billion, according to a Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) notification.

Korea F-35

Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

A Republic of Korea Air Force F-35A at the Seoul ADEX show in October 2019

The proposed Foreign Military Sales package includes 26 Pratt & Whitney F135 engines, of which 25 will be installed and with one serving as a spare. It also includes a range of services and equipment related to the possible sale, including an eventual software upgrade to the fighter’s future Block 4 standard.

“The proposed sale will improve the Republic of Korea’s capability to meet current and future threats by providing credible defence capability to deter aggression in the region and ensure interoperability with US forces,” says the DSCA.

“The proposed sale will augment Korea’s operational aircraft inventory and enhance its air-to-air and air-to-ground self-defence capability. Korea already has F-35s in its inventory and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

South Korea operates 40 F-35As, the conventional take-off and landing version of the type. According to Cirium fleets data, this makes South Korea the world’s third largest F-35 operator after the USA, with 605 examples, and Australia, with 59.

South Korea’s neighbour, Japan, operates 33 F-35s, but this number will grow to over 140, comprising the F-35A and the F-35B, the type’s short take-off and vertical landing version.

In a separate notification, the DSCA says approval has been given for a possible $389 million sustainment package for Poland’s fleet of F-16s.

Among other maintenance items, the proposed sale includes electronic warfare database programming support, software, as well as other services.

“The proposed sale will improve Poland’s capability to meet current and future threats by increasing the reliability of their F-16 fleet,” says the DSCA. “Poland has purchased sustainment support for the F-16s in its inventory for many years, and will have no difficulty absorbing these articles and services into its armed forces.”

Cirium data shows that Poland operates 48 F-16C/D fighters with an average age of 16 years.