South Korea's evaluation team for the F-X III competition for 60 fighters will evaluate the Lockheed Martin F-35 mainly through the use of simulators.

"At this time the F-35 fleet of 36 flying aircraft is fully occupied with test, training and delivery activities, so potential customers like [South] Korea are not able to fly the aircraft," Lockheed Martin said in an email to Flightglobal.

Tests of the F-35 are being conducted this month. Officials from Seoul's Defense Acquisition Programme Agency will evaluate the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle in August, and the Eurofighter Typhoon in September.

While a South Korean pilot will not have the opportunity to fly an actual F-35, Lockheed says Seoul will receive a great deal of access to the system, mainly through the use of high-fidelity simulators including the Joint Strike Fighter's manned tactical simulator and handling qualities simulator.

 F-35 simulator - Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin

"Korea will also have the opportunity to closely observe F-35 flight operations, discuss F-35 capabilities with US Air Force and Lockheed Martin test pilots, participate in pre-flight and post-flight pilot activities and observe or participate in numerous types of maintenance activities," the company says.

Al Norman, Lockheed's chief test pilot, will also visit Seoul in late June.

"Pilots from the USAF, the US Navy, the US Marine Corps, the UK, the Netherlands, Australia, Italy, Israel and Japan have extensively flown the high-fidelity simulator and verified it is the best tool to evaluate F-35 capabilities," Lockheed says. "All of the international nations who have selected and ordered the F-35 have evaluated its capabilities using the manned tactical simulator."

Boeing has yet to firm up its arrangements for the Silent Eagle evaluation.

"As Boeing is still in the process of coordinating its proposed [F-X III] test and evaluation ground and flight test plan with the [Republic of Korea Air Force], we are not in a position to disclose specific details at this time," the US-based company says.

Although the F-15SE is not in production, Boeing says the proposed type has substantial commonality with the F-15Ks already flown by South Korea's air force.

Key F-15SE upgrades include a reduced radar cross-section, fly-by-wire flight controls and improved sensors. Boeing also stresses the type's ability to carry a heavy payload of long-range weapons.

The Eurofighter consortium also has yet to provide details of its evaluation programme for South Korea, but an industry source says that in September Republic of Korea Air Force pilots will travel to Europe to fly the Typhoon.

Source: Flight International