A consortium of six South Korean aerospace firms has been selected as a partner for the maintenance of the U.S.-made radar-evading Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter aircraft, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has announced. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that Ellen M. Lord, the U.S. undersecretary of defense for acquisition and sustainment, has notified it that the consortium has been chosen in the U.S. government’s partner selection program. DAPA said in a statement on 13 February that the consortium – termed by DAPA as ‘Team ROK’, consists of Hanwha Systems, Hanwha Corp., Hanwha Techwin, Korean Air, LIG Nex1 and Hyundai Glovis. ROK stands for South Korea’s official name, Republic of Korea.
DAPA said it was notified of the decision by the US Department of Defense (DoD). It added that the selection of Team ROK followed a review undertaken by the DoD of proposals to expand MRO involvement in the F-35 programme by countries involved in developing the aircraft and by countries committed to procuring the platform. DAPA said that Team ROK has been allocated responsibility to provide MRO services in support of components and systems across three areas: avionics, “machinery and electronics”, and in-flight egress systems, adding that the decision supports local industry’s efforts to gain access to the F-35 global supply chain and, at a wider level, to boost the country’s defence exports.
In recent years, the U.S. government has sought to build a network of partners for F-35 maintenance among the nine countries that have participated in the joint development of the fighter and several others that have bought it. In 2014, Seoul decided to purchase 40 F-35A fighters at a cost of 7.4 trillion won (US$6.58 billion). The deployment of the warplanes is slated to begin in the first half of this year and will continue through 2021. The F-35A is the fighter’s air force variant, while the F-35B and F-35C are for marines and aircraft carrier-based operations, respectively. U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin manufactures the fighter. South Korea becomes the third country to have been selected as a F-35 maintenance partner in the Asia Pacific region along with Australia and Japan.