By Jung Sung-ki
South Korea's arms procurement agency Friday announced a contract to purchase 21 F-15K fighters from The Boeing Company of the United States.
Under the second-phase F-X deal, worth $2.3 billion, the American aircraft giant is to deliver the multi-role fighters to South Korea's Air Force between 2010 and 2012, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.
South Korea had accepted Boeing's offer to provide one more aircraft to help the Korean Air Force replace an F-15K that crashed in 2006 as part of an offset deal, a DAPA spokesman said.
``Once deployed, the aircraft are expected to make up for the diminishing capabilities of the Air Force's aging fighter jets while also reinforcing our strategic deterrence following the transfer of the wartime operational control of South Korean troops,'' the spokesman said.
The F-X project aims to equip the Air Force with 120 advanced fighters by 2020 to replace its aging F-4 aircraft.
In 2002, Boeing's F-15 Eagle was selected for the 40-plane, $4.2 billion first phase of the F-X fighter modernization program.
The F-15K can fly air-to-ground, air-to-air and air-to-sea missions day or night in any weather. It has a 23,000-pound payload and can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 2.3 with a combat radius of 1,800 kilometers.
South Korea plans to open a bid for the next phase F-X projects aimed at purchasing stealth fighters in 2011.
Meanwhile, the DAPA selected Pratt & Whitney (P&W)'s F-100 engines to power the 21 F-15Ks under a $220 million contract, beating out F110 engines made by General Electric (GE), which won the first-phase contract for 88 engines.
P&W will deliver 46 engines to South Korea under a technology cooperation contract with Samsung Techwin, the spokesman said.
It is rare that an air force selects different engines to power one type of fighter.