The introduction of an in-flight refuelling capability for South Korea has reportedly been postponed by some 12 months, following a delay in downselecting one of the three bids for the deal.

A decision on the bids was expected to be made at the end of 2014, ahead of entry to service in 2017, but according to local news agency Yonhap, a decision will now be made in June 2015 and Seoul will now begin fielding the tanker in 2018.

Bidding for the $1.3 billion four-aircraft deal are Boeing with its 767-based KC-46; Airbus Defence & Space with the Airbus A330 MRTT; and Israel Aerospace Industries with a Boeing 767-300ER-derived tanker transport using second-hand aircraft.

KC-46 - Boeing


The attributed reason for the delay was offset gaps, but negotiations are expected to begin again in the coming weeks, with the bidding finalised at the end of April, Yonhap reports defence officials as saying.

However, all four tankers are still expected to be deployed by 2019 – two in 2018 and two in 2019 – in line with the original schedule.

The selected type would support and add endurance to Seoul’s Boeing F-15K strike aircraft and Lockheed Martin F-16C fighters, along with its Korea Aerospace Industries TA-50s and future 60 Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters.