A South Korean official on 28 March pressed the US Department of Defense to grant maintenance, repair, overhaul and upgrade contracts for the Lockheed Martin F-35A Lighting II to Korean companies during a speech at a roll-out ceremony in Fort Worth, Texas.
A day before a factory ceremony to formally receive South Korea's first F-35A, the chairman of South Korean's parliamentary defence committee, Kim Hack-yong, asked US undersecretary of defence for acquisition Ellen Lord to consider South Korea's aerospace industry for the MRO&U programme in northern Asia. He mentioned the request during his speech at the delivery ceremony.
Hack-yong also said that he was concerned with the delays and slow pace of delivery of weapons systems ordered by South Korea. It was not clear from his speech specifically which weapons systems he was referring to.
South Korea's first F-35A was delivered about 3.5 years after the country ordered 40 aircraft in a deal worth $7 billion. When the deal was signed in September 2014, South Korea expected to take delivery of the first F-35A this year, suggesting the programme is on track.
South Korea is one of 11 countries buying the F-35. In the Pacific region, F-35 airframe MRO&U contracts are fulfilled by companies in Japan for the Northern Pacific and Australia for the Southern Pacific. As the number of fighters in the Pacific region continue to grow, it is expected that additional support contracts could be granted.
Lockheed Martin plans to deliver South Korea’s first aircraft to Luke Air Force Base, Arizona this spring where the country’s air force pilots and maintainers will begin training. The first F-35As are scheduled to arrive at South Korea’s main operational base at Cheong Ju in 2019.