On Tuesday, South Korea decided not to buy Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle.
It cancelled its option on the $7.7 billion jet fighter deal, which would have been for 60 F-15 Silent Eagles, and said it would issue a new tender.
The original deal was to replace the air force’s fleet of F-4s and F-5s. It initially attracted bids from Boeing, US rival Lockheed Martin, and the European aerospace consortium EADS.
Because the proposals from Lockheed and Europe came in over South Korea’s stated budget, Boeing, with its offer of 60 F-15 Silent Eagles, seemed to be the only option. They expected to be awarded the contract on Tuesday.
Unexpectedly, the state Defense Acquisition Program Administration suddenly decided the F-15 did not meet the air force’s current requirements after all. They cited concerns over the potential nuclear threat from North Korea as the reason for their change of heart.
Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-Seok said; “A majority of the (DAPA) committee members agreed to reject (the F-15) and restart the project.”
He added that the DAPA had taken into consideration “the current security situation, North Korea’s nuclear program and… the rapid development of aviation technology.”
South Korea’s position was always that the bid price should not exceed the 8.3 trillion won approved by parliament.
Last month, 15 South Korean former air force chiefs signed a petition suggesting a review of the “irrational” procedure that resulted in the decision to buy from Boeing.
In announcing the new decision to review the situation, the spokesman said: “We believe that the whole review process will take about a year. We will expedite the process to make sure that the void in our national defense will be limited to a minimum.”
South Korea’s military needs have usually been met by US suppliers in the past, but EADS had hoped that a contract they had secured to supply helicopters to the navy would at least give them a chance.
Indeed, they had offered a $2.0 billion investment in a separate South Korean project to develop its own advanced fighter jets had they got the contract for the fighters.
And Lockheed Martin tried to boost their chances by offering to support South Korea’s effort to develop and launch military communications satellites.
But, as of now, Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle is not in the race, and another year will pass until the successful supplier will be named.