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Sunday, August 18, 2013

F-15SE Wins Korean F-X III?

There is some degree of contradiction between news sources but it appears as if the F-15 silent eagle has won the F-X III competition by default as both the F-35 and Eurofighter might have been eliminated. The F-35 was reportedly eliminated by some sources as the $10.8 billion dollar Lockheed Martin proposal exceeded the budgetary limit of $7.4 allocated to F-X III. Requests to increased the budget of F-X III made on behalf of the DAPA (Defense Acquisition Program Administration) were denied by the South Korean Government.

"The DAPA procurement agency will only confirm that at least 1 bidder was within the budget, but Yonhap News Agency confirms that the F-35 disqualified itself by bidding over budget. The Korea Times cites an unnamed “industry source” who says that Eurofighter and Boeing both bid within the limits" - Defense Industry Daily, 2013

Its important to note Lockheed has yet to formally receive a notification by the DAPA and Lockheed maintains it continues to work with the South Korean Government to find an appropriate solution.

"'The F-35 is still in the race technically for the final evaluations, but the aircraft is eliminated in reality if the DAPA announcement has no lies,' said Shin In-kyun, an analyst at the Korea Defense Network, a private defense think tank...'We’ll keep watching the situations until the DAPA’s selection committee ends,' a Lockheed official said. 'This fighter selection program is critical for the Republic of Korea’s national interests for the next 30 or 40 years ahead, and the F-35 is the only future-oriented aircraft meeting the needs.'" - Defense News, 2013

Some news sources claim that both the Eurofighter and the silent eagle remain in the competition but other media sources claim the Eurofighter was eliminated due to unilateral bidding changes made on behalf of EADS which disqualify it from F-X III.

"EADS is known as the company to have stepped out of the race, according to sources in Seoul. 'We disqualified the concerned company and will consider the remaining one firm as a candidate in the committee for defense procurement projects,' the DAPA said in a release, citing 'flaws found in the bidding documents' as reasons of the elimination.  Although the DAPA required the bidders to submit prices for 15 two-seater jets and 45 single-seat jets, EADS reduced the number of double-seater aircraft to six, and offered prices based on the British pound, according to a company official." - YONHAP News Agency, 2013

If its true that the Eurofighter has also been eliminated, than the silent eagle won by default rather than by its own merits. Both the other contenders failed to meet contract criteria on budget and documentation rather than on a scrupulous performance based evaluation which is somewhat disappointing. Although many, including myself, believed the F-35 would win the F-X III competition, its not totally surprising if the silent eagle wins the contract. The shared commonality between South Korea's existing F-15K fleet and the silent eagle is a major benefit for Boeing. Last year Boeing announced it would set up a maintenance, repair, and overhaul facility (MRO) Daegu-Gyeongbuk Free Economic Zone to support South Korea's 60 F-15Ks. Its likely that the new silent eagles would be able to take advantage of the planned infrastructure facilities and reduce costs. Furthermore, Boeing has pledged more than $1.2 billion dollars in parts and manufacturing for the silent eagle to assist South Korea.

Given the amount of contradiction between news sources and the fact that the F-35 is still technically in the race, its not safe for Boeing to celebrate just yet. Furthermore, many South Korean Air Force (ROKAF) officials have repeatedly expressed a preference for F-35 over the other F-X III contenders (Defense News, 2013). Its worthwhile to wait and see before definitely giving the win to the silent eagle even if the initial reports look promising for Boeing. Fighter procurement contracts can often be a mess resulting from budgetary, technical, and post-contract bidding related issues (e.g. India's MMRCA, Brazil's F-X2, and the UAE's Rafale contract).

For a detailed technical evaluation of the F-15SE:

Related Articles

  1. F-35 vs F-15SE: South Korea's F-X III Competition - Part I The North Korean Threat
  2. F-35 vs F-15SE: South Korea's F-X III Competition - Part II The Silent Eagle
  3. F-35 vs F-15SE: South Korea's F-X III Competition - Part III The Silent Eagle
  4. F-35 vs F-15SE: South Korea's F-X III Competition - Part IV The Silent Eagle


  1. Lockheed says S. Korea jet fighter contest not over, Reuters, 2013.
  2. Korea’s F-X Multi-Role Fighter Buys: Phases 2 & 3, Defense Industry Daily, 2013.
  3. (2nd LD) Boeing's F-15SE reportedly chosen as final candidate for S. Korea's next fighter plane, YONHAP, 2013.
  4. Sources: F-35 Bid Exceeds S. Korean Fighter Budget, Defense News, 2013.
  5. EADS’ bid to sell fighter jets is thrown out, Korean Joongang Daily, 2013.
  6. Boeing to set up F-15K MRO centre in S Korea, Greg Waldron, 2012.

F-35A, Image Credit: Lockheed Martin

Author's Note: The new segment in the Defeating China's Anti-Access Strategy will be released later this week. Thank you for your continued patience. 


  1. Thanks for the Update Matt. I think the F15s has won it. But, the F35 is not out of the race at all. F35 will be bought on small numbers in about 5 years. Or Until NK, start's up again. As for the Euro Fighter, it's been losing contracts everywhere. (ie: India, Brazil) Sk will do well against the NK with more f15 if it was SU35s, then the discussion will be more serious.

    1. NP. Yeah it looks like the F-15SE might have this. The F-15SE is going to be good aircraft but its usefulness in a heavy anti-access environment, e.g. China, is limited compared to the F-35. Realistically, SK is capable of doing a lot of damage to NK even without US support as is. I'd assume Putin is not stupid enough to sell NK the Su-35 but US-Russian relations aren't great. I just hope Obama realizes Russia needs the US more than the US needs Russia.

  2. SE won by Default? Seems like price is an important sttribute in the competition that the other 2 offerings failed.

    So yeh, if they were getting them for free and having them maintained for free they might pick the much more expensive F-35. Or maybe a mix of F-35s for attack and either Typhoon or SE for the air-to-air role?

    The problem is you really do have to pay for them and when you have to pay for them the SE beat the other 2 offerings (or so it appears).

    1. Price is certainly a major factor but the elimination of the Eurofighter was kind of silly frankly. I don't know why EADS would make a foolish mistake like that at the last minute. If I was in the ROCAF leadership, I'd argue for a mixed fleet given the fiscal situation. Maybe order 30 F-15SE and upgrade 20 newest F-15K to SE standard and save the remaining cash for a future F-35 buy sometime in the next five to seven years.

    2. Price is only fifteen percent of the criteria for selection. At this point, I wouldn't count this contest as in the bag for Boeing. We shall see in a few months, once an official announcement is made.

  3. From what I understood, price was 15% for those bids that met the price cap.

    1. You might be right. I based my comment on an article I read earlier in the week.