The US Department of Defense has formally notified congress about the potential sale of weapons for the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle and Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter, which are vying for South Korea's 60 aircraft F-X III requirement.
Seoul is expected to make a decision sometime this summer in what will probably be 2013's biggest fighter contract. The third contender in the competition is the Eurofighter Typhoon.
The weapons package for the F-15SE will cost $823 million, while that for the F-35 will cost $793 million.
Key elements of both packages include 274 Raytheon AIM-120C-7 AMRAAM medium-range air-to-air missiles, hundreds of Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) tail kits, 542 Boeing GBU-39/B small diameter bombs and other weapons.
The weapons list for both aircraft is skewed toward ground attack missions. Were a war to erupt on the Korean peninsula, North Korea's obsolete air force would be quickly destroyed. Pyongyang, however, has up to 1,000 artillery pieces in hardened sites within range of Seoul. Neutralising this threat would be a key mission of the South Korean air force in the early days of a war.
In late March, the Department of Defense notified the US Congress of the potential F-15SE and F-35 sale to Seoul. The F-35 is being offered under a Foreign Military Sales (FMS) package and will cost $10.8 billion. Boeing is offering a hybrid package comprising an FMS deal worth $2.41 billion and a commercial sale worth an undisclosed amount.