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A service center for F-35 aircraft will be established in South Korea

The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced that by 2027, a service center for Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft will be established at Cheongju Air Base.

On Thursday, April 18, 2024, the South Korean news agency Yonhap reported information from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), which announced that by the end of 2027, a Maintenance, Repair, and Overhaul (MRO) center for Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft will be established at Cheongju Air Base in North Chungcheong Province (112 km south of Seoul).

Photo: DAPA

The main reason for this step is to increase the operational readiness of the fleet and reduce its operating costs.

(The facility) will eliminate the need for long-term overseas maintenance, thereby reducing aircraft downtime, as well as operational and maintenance costs, DAPA vice spokesperson You Hyoung-keun said during a regular press briefing. We plan to have the maintenance capabilities by the end of 2027, You added.

South Korea will be the third country in the Asia-Pacific region, after Australia and Japan, to have a technical service center for F-35 aircraft.

Currently, the Republic of Korea Air Force (Daehanminguk Gong-gun) possesses a fleet of 39 out of 40 F-35A aircraft, acquired in the first phase of the F-X III program (last year, all contracted units were delivered). They were ordered in 2014 for the equivalent of 6.4 billion USD, with deliveries commencing in March 2019.

On December 4, 2023, a decision was made to remove one unit from service after it had an accident on January 4, 2022: it collided with a bird, resulting in avionics failure and landing without the landing gear extended. The decision was made due to the fact that the potential repair costs increased by 1.5 times.

On December 27, 2023, DAPA ordered 20 additional aircraft from the American company Lockheed Martin, through the US Department of Defense, as part of the second phase of the F-X III program. This is fewer than expected, as on September 13, 2023, Seoul received approval to purchase 25 units. Deliveries will commence in 2027.

This means that the Daehanminguk Gong-gun will have a fleet of 59 F-35 aircraft (it is not known if and when the loss described above will be replaced).

On December 1, 2023, the American Defense Security Cooperation Agency (DSCA) reported that the US Department of State had approved a potential sale of a package of ammunition and armament for Korean F-35A aircraft with a maximum estimated value of 271 million USD.


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