South Korea's decision on the F-X future fighter is facing as much as a six-month slippage. This is causing growing anxiety within Boeing, as a cut-off date for sustaining F-15 long- lead item production nears. US industry, meanwhile, is pushing for a decision by February.

F-X fighter selection is in danger of being delayed until April or beyond. The hold-up is said to be due to bureaucracy and the demand for transparency to avoid the financial scandals that have dogged previous South Korean acquisitions.

The Korea Institute of Defence Analysis (KIDA) is now not expected to conclude its evaluation of the programme and competing fighter types before the new year. South Korea's President DJ Kim will make the final decision.

End of production for F-15 long-lead items is due to begin in July unless the company can win an F-X order to sustain the line beyond the last 10 US Air Force fighters. Any delay will benefit the favoured Dassault Rafale and its Eurofighter Typhoon rival, which, unlike the F-15, cannot meet South Korea's 2004 in-service deadline for a fully operational fighter.

Source: Flight International