Andrew Doyle / Singapore

"Diplomatic considerations" make F-15K favourite over Rafale as Typhoon and Su-35 fail to make the cut

South Korea will select the Boeing F-15K or Dassault Rafale to meet its $3.2 billion F-X fighter requirement by the end of the month after eliminating the Eurofighter Typhoon and Sukhoi Su-35.

The US manufacturer, however, appears virtually assured of winning after the South Korean ministry of national defence stated "diplomatic considerations" would be taken into account during the second round of the evaluation. The F-15K has long been seen as the front-runner due to South Korea's close defence ties with the USA.

"A final decision will be made in April following full consultations with other government agencies, taking into account the impact on the country's economy and industry as well as diplomatic considerations," says the ministry. The selection will ultimately have to be approved by South Korean president Kim Dae-Jung.

Boeing is desperate to secure the 40-aircraft order from South Korea to keep the F-15 in production. Dassault, meanwhile, is searching for a launch export customer for the Rafale, which came out top in the South Korean air force's F-X technical evaluation.

The Su-35 was always seen as an outside contender, while Eurofighter officials admit privately that the Typhoon would not have been a mature enough product to meet the 2004 in-service target date.

Dassault has been attempting to distance itself from a scandal which blew up after corruption allegations were levelled against one of its local agents (Flight International, 19-25 March). Several air force officers have been arrested in connection with the scandal.

Source: Flight International