By Jung Sung-ki
The Air Force received its last batch of three F-15K fighters Wednesday from Boeing in the United States under the 40-plane first-phase F-X program to introduce 120 high-end multi-role combat aircraft, Air Force officials said.
With this latest addition the Air Force has a total of 39 F-15K aircraft, since a unit crashed in the waters off Pohang, some 320 kilometers southeast of Seoul, during a night mission in June 2006.
The three F-15Ks were delivered to the Air Force's 122 squadron of the 11th Fighter Wing based in Daegu, they said.
``With the gradual delivery of F-15Ks since October 2005, a F-15K squadron has been fully operational since July 1. Another squadron will enter service early next year after pilots undergo related training programs,'' an Air Force spokesman said.
In 2002, Boeing's F-15K Eagle was selected for the 40-plane, $4.2 billion first phase of the F-X project. South Korea signed with Boeing over the $2.3 billion, 21-plane second phase F-X program early this year. The U.S. aircraft giant is to hand over the aircraft between 2010 and 2012 under the contract.
The F-15K is capable of air-to-ground, air-to-air and air-to-sea missions day and night, in any weather conditions. It has a 23,000-pound payload and can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 2.3, with an operational radius of 1,800 kilometers. A single aircraft costs about $100 million.
Its armament includes Boeing's SLAM-ER air-to-ground precision-strike missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) bombs, and AIM-9X tactical air-to-air missiles built by Raytheon of the United States.
The third phase of the F-X program is scheduled to begin in 2011 with a focus on equipping the Air Force with stealthy fighters.