South Korea has invited Boeing, Lockheed Martin and EADS to participate in its next generation fighter jet programme, in which the country will invest 8.3 trillion won ($7.39 billion) until 2021.
The air-power project comes as the country braces for changing dynamics on the Korean Peninsula after the death in December of Kim Jong Il, the former leader of North Korea, with which the South is still technically at war.
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Neighbouring Japan recently chose US contractor Lockheed Martin to build a fleet of 42 F-35 planes, valued by analysts at more than $7 billion, and China plans to introduce its own stealth fighters.
The deadline for proposals will close on June 18, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) said at a presentation to contractors.
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Wee Jong-seong, director of the agency’s fighter project team, said the three firms’ aircraft met operational capability requirements.
Prospective planes for the bidding include Lockheed’s F-35 Lightning II and EADS’s Eurofighter Typhoon.
A DAPA spokesman declined to specify how many planes it planned to buy.
However, Yonhap News Agency reported that South Korea was seeking “60 fifth-generation fighter jets with stealth capabilities.” It didn’t cite a source.