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S Korea to purchase another 20 F-35A stealth fighter jets from US

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Seoul: South Korea will purchase another 20 F-35A stealth fighter jets from the United States to bolster response capabilities against military threats posed by North Korea, South Korean news agency Yonhap reported Wednesday, citing Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

The DAPA signed the contract for the jets made by US company Lockheed Martin on December 8 after Washington approved the sale in September, the report said.

The new F-35As will be delivered to South Korea starting in 2027 and will have enhanced arms operational capabilities and security features than those Seoul already has, the agency cited the DAPA as saying.

South Korea’s air force currently operates 39 F-35As out of 40 fighters purchased from 2019 to 2022, the report said, adding that one of the fighters was seriously damaged by a bird strike last year and was decommissioned earlier this month.

Seoul currently has a total of 410 fighter jets, including F-35As, South Korean-made KF-16s and American-made F-15Ks, while Pyongyang has some 810 fighters, the report said, citing the country’s 2022 Defense White Paper.

“Although North Korea has more fighter jets, their operation rate is known to be extremely low due to poor maintenance from a lack of parts,” Shin Jong-woo, a senior analyst at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, told Yonhap, citing United Nations sanctions against Pyongyang’s nuclear and missile programs as the reason.

Shin also told the agency that F-35As are incomparable to the North’s fleet of fighters as its most advanced aircraft is an early version of Russia’s MiG-29 developed in the 1970s.

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