South Korea appears set to re-tender its F-X III requirement for 60 fighter aircraft, after deciding against the selection of the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, which had been tipped to win the competition.

Although the F-15SE was the only aircraft to come in below the Defense Acquisition Program Administration’s (DAPA) budget of won (W) 8.3 trillion ($7.73 billion), concerns about its stealth characteristics have prompted the decision to restart the acquisition process, according to a report by Seoul’s official Yonhap news agency, citing a DAPA statement.

The decision is understood to have been made on 24 September at a DAPA meeting presided over by defence minister Kim Kwan-Jin.

The three contenders for the requirement were the F-15SE, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35. Industry observers had consistently viewed the competition as a two-way battle between the two US-built aircraft, given Seoul’s extremely close ties to Washington. Observers close to the South Korean defence establishment have observed the air force’s preference for the F-35.

A re-tendering process for the competition could prove to be challenging for Seoul. Industry sources have said that DAPA loosened the stealth requirement of F-X III to allow fairer competition between the three aircraft. Placing too much emphasis on stealth in a new competition, however, could be seen as undermining a fair process.