S. Korea's first F-35A stealth fighter unveiled

South Korea's first F-35A stealth fighter jet making a test flight during a rollout ceremony at Lockheed Martin's assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday.
South Korea's first F-35A stealth fighter jet making a test flight during a rollout ceremony at Lockheed Martin's assembly plant in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday.PHOTO: EPA-EFE

SEOUL • The first F-35A stealth fighter aircraft for South Korea has made its public debut amid a series of diplomatic encounters ahead of an inter-Korean summit next month.

South Korea and the United States held a joint rollout ceremony for the jet at Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas, on Wednesday, reported Yonhap news agency.

The aircraft is the first of 40 F-35As South Korea has agreed to purchase in a 2014 contract. Each aircraft is reportedly priced at around 120 billion won (S$148 million).

South Korea may buy 20 more F-35s as the air force has requested more assets, reported Yonhap.

Defence officials said the production of the fifth-generation F-35A Lightning II represents a milestone in South Korea's combat readiness.

Adding to the Air Force's existing fleet of F-15Ks and F-16s, the F-35As are expected to play a key role in South Korea's envisioned Kill Chain pre-emptive strike system.

Under the Kill Chain programme, South Korea aims to detect impending missile attacks from North Korea and launch pre-emptive strikes.

A version of this article appeared in the print edition of The Straits Times on March 30, 2018, with the headline 'S. Korea's first F-35A stealth fighter unveiled'. Print Edition | Subscribe