South Korea’s newest F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter jets entered operational service during a ceremony held on Tuesday, Yonhap reported citing the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF).
The ceremony took place at the 17th Fighter Wing base in the central city of Cheongju. It was closed to the press in an apparent effort to keep it a low-profile event to avoid angering North Korea.
Seoul showcased its newly-acquired F-35As to the public for the first time during the Armed Forces Day ceremony on Oct. 1. A total of four Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) F-35s were displayed at the event held at the Air Force’s 11th Fighter Wing base in the southeastern city of Daegu.
The ROKAF has so far received 13 F-35As, beginning with two in late March, under a 2014 deal, worth about $6.4 billion, to acquire a total of 40 fifth-generation jets through 2021. The service is expected to receive 13 more F-35As in 2020 and 14 more the next year.
South Korea is now in process to acquire 20 additional F-35s under the second phase of its procurement plan, code-named F-X III, according to a report submitted by the country’s arms procurement agency, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), to the National Assembly on Oct. 7.
F-35 Lightning II is a family of single-seat, single-engine, all-weather, fifth-generation stealth multirole fighters designed and developed by Lockheed Martin to perform ground attack and air superiority missions.
It has three main models: the F-35A conventional takeoff and landing (CTOL) variant, the F-35B short take-off and vertical-landing (STOVL) variant, and the F-35C carrier-based Catapult Assisted Take-Off But Arrested Recovery (CATOBAR) variant.