Three of the world's most capable jets are competing to become South Korea's new frontline combat aircraft. These are the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle.
Each is now being assessed by South Korean defence officials for the third stage of the Republic of Korea Air Force's F-X Fighter Program.
The Boeing F-15K Slam Eagle has already won F-X Fighter Program stages one and two, having been judged the best choice for South Korea's future fighter needs. Now, the Republic of Korea Air Force is seeking a new advanced multirole strike platform and the deadline for bids ended today - 18 June 2012.
Flight tests are scheduled for September and, one month later, the winner should be announced.
South Korean Fighter Contract
The South Korean fighter contract will involve the purchase of 60 new multirole combat aircraft. While Europe and the US remain in financial difficulties, increasing Asian wealth is helping drive growth in many areas, defence included. Indeed, business research firm Frost & Sullivan expects defence spending in the Asia-Pacific region to rise 4.2 per cent every year until 2016.
Various factors could influence which, of the three combat aircraft, South Korea selects. Having previously gone for a different version of the well-established Boeing F-15 on two occasions, it could be swayed this way again.
South Korean Strike Aircraft Bids
On the other hand, Eurofighter's widely-expected to soon announce a plan that could see Typhoons constructed under licence - if the type wins the South Korean strike aircraft bids process - and that could be a boon to the local economy. The Eurofighter Typhoon currently equips the Royal Air Force, Royal Saudi Air Force, Austrian Air Force, German Air Force, Italian Air Force and the Spanish Air Force, so is the most widely-used of the three designs.
The F-15SE Silent Eagle is, by contrast, not yet in service and first flew in July 2010, but it's based on the very well-established F-15E Strike Eagle. With advanced stealth features including radar-absorbent materials, it's being pitched at operators currently equipped with the F-15E Strike Eagle - Japan and Israel among them.
The F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter is also under development and some months away from entering service. It's the product of a multi-national collaboration programme led by the United States, which plans to purchase well over 2,000 examples in three variants.
F-15 Silent Eagle image copyright Boeing