F-15 Silent Eagle Rejected By South Korea: Is Stealth Fighter Flawed?

By Danny Choy on September 24, 2013 9:29 PM EDT

F-15 Silent Eagles
F-15 Silent Eagles for the Japan Air Force (Photo: Creative Commons)

A total of 60 F-15 Silent Eagle fighter jets were intended for South Korea military use. However, the Pacific nation has opted to turn down the bid with Boeing as 15 former air force chiefs of South Korea signed a petition that opposed the F-15 Silent Eagle for its limited technical capabilities. South Korea announced its decision to restart the multi-billion dollar investment for a more advanced aircraft on Tuesday.

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Military activity in the Korean peninsula has intensified in the past months as North Korea's recent nuclear activity has caused new levels of political tension. South Korea is looking for the addition of a fleet of stealth aircraft, such as the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, to gain the upper hand over whatever North Korea may have planned.

"Our air force thinks that we need combat capabilities in response to the latest trend of aerospace technology development centered around the fifth generation fighter jets and to provocations from North Korea," defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok told reporters.

Initially, the South Korean military considered the Lockheed Martin F-35A. However, the new fighter was considered too expensive. Now, the defense ministry is reconsidering the Lockheed Martin F-35A over the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle as the stand-out fighter. The final stealth aircraft under consideration is the Eurofighter Typhoon.

Should South Korea purchase a fleet of Lockheed Martin F-35A stealth fighters, it will be the eighth country to do so. Other countries that operate the F-35A also include the United States, Israel, Britain, Australia, Italy, Norway, and Japan.

The original contract for 60 Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle was valued at $7.7 billion, the only bid that fell within the defense ministry's original budget. However, the F-15 Silent Eagle failed to meet crucial technical capabilities. Ultimately, the ministry decided against acquiring a stealth fleet at cost.

But what exactly did the F-15 Silent Eagle lack?

According to U.S. military, the latest Lockheed Martin F-35A possesses cutting edge capabilities including data fuse with other aircrafts and a barrage of other sensors that provide pilots with crucial information. What's more, given the distribution of the F-35A to a potential total of eight nations, the U.S. Air Force general and Lockheed Martin are looking to find ways to lower the cost of the F-35 program.

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) must know present a new proposal with a new budget outline, which the defense ministry says may take another year to complete.

The South Korean government and air force will map out a fresh tender process and consider a new budget. The defense ministry said it could take around one year to complete the new tender round. "DAPA...will swiftly pursue the program again in order to minimize the vacuum in combat capabilities," assured the South Korea agency.

According to DAPA, any delay in the process will leave South Korea's air foce 100 fighter jets short of the 430 units expected by 2019. The latest decision to reject Boeings bid for the F-15 Silent Eagle will mean a three year delay before the first delivery of fighters.

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