[UPDATE 7/3/2013: South Korea extended the bidding process past June 28th as no party came close to the goal of $7.3 billion. The next part should be released in the next couple days. I came across some unexpected problems during the research process hence the unusually long time to write this article. I am a one man team and have to research, write, edit, and fact check everything myself so please bare with me.]
So much for my plan to finish the F-X III series before the results. The final stage of the F-X III bidding lasts until June 28th. Even after the results I plan to release the rest of the series with some alterations. My assessment is both aircraft could protect South Korea effectively from North Korea but South Korea will choose the F-35A. I will explain my reasoning in detail in the rest of the series but in summary the F-35 will likely be chosen for the following reasons:
- Long term viability: The F-35 will continue to be upgraded and improved over its service life by virtue of US orders alone. The F-15SE has yet to secure a single major order and further improvements would likely require direct South Korean investment. Furthermore, the level of stealth employed on the F-15SE is insufficient to protect it from future threats. At the rate of growth in AESA technology, in ten years an rcs of .05m^2 will be insufficient to provide an acceptable level of protection in heavily defended areas. The F-35's stealthier .0015m^2 frontal rcs provides a hedge against future AESA growth.
- Multi-purpose usage: The F-15SE can sufficiently counter North Korean based threats but China is another problem entirely. The lack of rear stealth limits the F-15SE's penetration capabilities in heavily defended airspace without electronic warfare support. How far a stealth aircraft can penetrate into enemy airspace is determined by its almost always larger rear not frontal rcs (if the pilot wants to go home alive). China will continue to enjoy a large quantitative advantage by virtue of its many air bases in the region. The only option is to purchase the highest quality aircraft to provide effective deterrence.
- Interoperability with US Forces: Although the F-15SE features the standard Link-16 system, it does not have MADL. MADL will be key when operating in highly defended airspace. As operation Unified Protector showed, an allied force is much more limited when only one nation in the coalition possess true stealth aircraft. UK and French aircraft could not hit their targets until the Libyan IADS was disabled by American B-2 Spirit bombers and Tomahawk missile strikes. When multiple allied nations have all aspect stealth aircraft from day1, much more force can be applied from the onset against enemy air defenses.
On a less serious note, blogger lets me know the highest traffic sources for this blog (which is mainly Google). However, a lot of European aviation forums have been getting upset with my Red Flag 2012: Did the Raptor Seriously Just Get Owned? So I made them a little something in response:
In all seriousness, I enjoy criticism so long as its productive (most of them made legitimate points). Even when its not, its nice to know people read this blog anyway. As always, feel free to leave any thoughts in general about the blog or otherwise in the comments.