The Republic of Korea seems set to launch the F-15SE Silent Eagle, by confirming Boeing as winner of the F-X III contest for 60 more combat aircraft. The Yonhap news agency reported that the Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35A have been eliminated. Boeing, Eurofighter and Lockheed Martin all said this week that they had received no official notification on the outcome of the F-X III contest. Yonhap said that “a final decision on whether to accept or reject the sole (remaining) candidate” will be made in mid-September.
In June, Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) told Yonhap that all the bids had exceeded the Won 8.3 trillion ($7.3 billion) budget. In a media briefing last Friday, a DAPA official said that it had since received lower bids for the Silent Eagle and Typhoon, implying that the F-35 had been eliminated. Two days later, according to Yonhap, DAPA announced that the Typhoon bid had been dropped “because it did not meet the program’s key demands.” The Yonhap report implied that DAPA was seeking 15 two-seat Typhoons, whereas only six could be offered within the budget ceiling.
Korea has already bought 60 F-15K Strike Eagles in two batches, after selecting the type in preference to the Dassault Rafale in 2005. Dassault declined to bid on the F-X III contest. Boeing launched the Silent Eagle in 2009, targeting Korea and other existing export customers for the Strike Eagle. Compared with the F-15K, the F-15SE has stealth features such as conformal weapons bays that can be converted to carry fuel, and surface treatments. It also has the Raytheon APG-63 (V)3 AESA radar, a digital flight control system and a new digital electronic warfare system (DEWS).
Boeing flew a development aircraft with some of these features in 2010 and was bullish about the Silent Eagle’s prospects in the Korean competition last year. According to Yonhap, Boeing dropped one of the Silent Eagle features–canted tails for reduced radar cross-section–“to meet Seoul’s tight budget and delivery schedule.”
EADS was leading the Typhoon bid, and “had submitted a very attractive and unconventional offer,” a Eurofighter spokesman told AIN. The European consortium has been emphasizing technology transfer opportunities for Korea that would assist the country’s long-term plan to develop an indigenous combat aircraft.
The offer of Lockheed Martin F-35As was made by the U.S. government as a foreign military sale (FMS). In a notification to Congress last April, the package was valued at $10.8 billion, including parts, training and logistical support. Boeing is offering the Silent Eagle as a direct commercial sale at an undisclosed price. But the aircraft’s radar, DEWS and various other avionics are being offered under FMS terms, at a cost of $2.4 billion. Boeing told AIN that it had offered “an extremely capable, low-risk and price-competitive solution that can be delivered on a schedule that meets Korean requirements, (including) a comprehensive offset program.”
If the deal is confirmed, the 60 Silent Eagles will be delivered between 2017 and 2021.