South Korean F-35A Delivery Schedule Safe From Pandemic

Credit: U.S. Air Force

SEOUL, BEIJING—The South Korean finance ministry has reiterated that spending shifts to fight the COVID-19 pandemic will not delay deliveries of Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightnings to the country.

The ministry’s stance backs up an earlier defense ministry statement that no acquisition delays in introduction or deployment of equipment were expected.

But the JoongAng Ilbo newspaper reported that the MOH 2 program for 12 naval helicopters, which has not proceeded as far as source selection, will be delayed. The competitors are Leonardo and Sikorsky.

The finance ministry’s April 17 statement on the F-35A can be taken as more authoritative than that of the defense ministry, since the finance ministry controls the funds.

South Korea decided in 2013 to buy 40 F-35As. It has received more than eight.

For MOH 2 the ministry was due to choose between the Leonardo AW159 Wildcat and Sikorsky MH-60S by year’s end, concluding a protracted acquisition effort that began in January 2017.

Some of the 904.7 billion won ($743.2 million) shift in funding from the defense budget to fighting the pandemic is coming from MOH 2, the JoongAng Ilbo said. There would be a delay, it added, without saying what milestones would be missed.

South Korea chose the Wildcat for the MOH 1 program in 2013, buying eight of helicopters of the type.

Kim Minseok

Kim Minseok covers South Korean defense. He has worked as a journalist for South Korean military magazines Military Review and Defense Times. Mr Kim is also a research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, a think tank.

Bradley Perrett

Bradley Perrett covered China, Japan, South Korea and Australia. He is a Mandarin-speaking Australian.