Following the news that the US approved a sale of up to 25 F-35 fighter jets to South Korea, Kandlikar Venkatesh, Defense Analyst at GlobalData, a leading data and analytics company, offers his view:

“The approval for the additional units of F-35A fighter aircraft marks a significant milestone in the enduring partnership between the US and the Republic of Korea (ROK) and its role in promoting regional security. The proposed sale also represents South Korea’s proactive approach to safeguarding peace in an increasingly complex security environment and signifies that it is fully prepared to defend its interests against potential threats from its northern neighbour on the Korean peninsula.

“While South Korea’s existing fleet of 40 F-35A fighter aircraft already assists in maintaining a credible deterrent posture for the ROK Air Force, the addition of another 25 units of F-35As to its arsenal not only enhances its air defense capabilities but can also be seen as a strategic move that addresses the concerning dynamics of aggression from North Korea amid its growing closeness to Russia as well as the rising regional assertiveness of China.

“Furthermore, the acquisition also aims at enhancing the commitment to interoperability between the ROK and US forces, which has a key role in the context of the broader Indo-Pacific region (IOR). According to GlobalData, South Korea is projected to spend approximately $16.8 billion on procuring various types of military fixed-wing aircraft over the next ten years, comprising a mix of domestically developed platforms such as the KF-21 and foreign designs such as the F-35s. Once acquired, the presence of more numbers of F-35s in the ROK Air Force’s inventory will increase the collective air defense capabilities of regional allies, leading to greater stability in the IOR.”

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