Missiles sought to arm Boeing F-15Ks despite uncertainty over US willingness to sell

South Korea is expressing interest in the Lockheed Martin AGM-158 JASSM stand-off missile for a planned fleet of Boeing F-15Ks,but is uncertain whether the US government will sell the missile.

Boeing, meanwhile, has awarded Lockheed Martin a $164 million contract to equip the hybrid Tiger Eyes navigation and targeting sensor suite for the F-15K.

South Korea has made unofficial approaches about acquiring the 400km (215nm)-range, low-observable JASSM, now in low-rate initial production and due to enter US operational service next year. Australia has selected JASSM as its future stand-off missile and is expected to conclude a deal next year. Despite this, Washington remains ambivalent over a South Korean purchase.

US officials say Seoul's requirement for a stand-off weapon to arm its F-15Ks will be addressed by the shorter-range Boeing AGM-85H SLAM-ER missile. The US Congress was notified in October of the possible sale of 45 SLAM-ER missiles to South Korea, worth an estimated $115 million. Earlier notification of the F-15K deal included provision for either the Boeing AGM-130 or Lockheed Martin AGM-142, which South Korea had ordered for its McDonnell Douglas F-4E Phantoms.

South Korea's F-15Ks will feature the Tiger Eyes suite, which draws on technology developed for the latest Sniper/Pantera targeting pod and the earlier LANTIRN 2000. It features new third-generation mid-wave forward looking infrared (FLIR) navigation, a third-generation starring array FLIR for targeting with a 40,000ft (12,200m) guidance laser and TV sensor, along with a pylon mounted version of the US Navy's Infrared Search and Track System.

Production of the first South Korea F-15K is due next April, with deliveries starting at the end of 2005 and running to 2008.

Source: Flight International