South Korea is looking at becoming the first foreign military sales (FMS) customer of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter (JSF), with deliveries as early as 2012.

Lockheed Martin will this week brief South Korea's air force and ministry of defence on the fighter. The manufacturer says the briefing includes an aircraft and programme overview. Korean officials will also have an opportunity to fly Lockheed Martin's JSF cockpit demonstrator, which was due to be moved to Seoul after the conclusion of the Korea Air Show in Busan on 9 November.

Industry officials say the US government is also preparing to brief the South Korean government on the JSF. This briefing, tentatively set for next March or April, will provide more programme details than the Lockheed Martin briefing and include classified information.

Lockheed Martin believes South Korea is a leading FMS candidate for the aircraft and will most likely be the second Asian customer after Singapore, which is expected to join the programme as a security co-operation participant later this year. Industry officials say South Korea has expressed interest in potentially taking delivery of the JSF from 2012, when the window for FMS deliveries theoretically opens.

South Korea last year acquired 40 Boeing F-15Ks for delivery from late 2005 through 2008 and is believed to be considering earmarking out-year fighter procurement funds to the JSF instead of ordering additional F-15s. The nation's initial F-X requirement was for 120 aircraft.

See korea air show report p16-17

Source: Flight International