In what was already a bad week for South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA, 방위사업청), Russian aircraft manufacturer , Sukhoi (ОАО “Компания “Сухой”) has dropped out of DAPA’s FX-III fighter acquisition program, after failing to submit an application to attend Monday’s Request for Proposal (RFP) meeting in which DAPA outlined their next generation fighter needs:

Russia will not enter Korea’s advanced jet acquisition project as none of its aircraft manufacturers including Sukhoi expressed their intent to join the heated competition, officials here said.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) listed Sukhoi’s T-50 PAK-FA in July last year as one of the four contenders to have expressed an interest in joining the open bidding worth 8.29 trillion won ($7.3 billion) along with Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS).

“No Russian firm submitted an application to attend the program’s explanatory session, which was a prerequisite to participate, by the Friday registration deadline,” a spokesman of DAPA said. (Source: Lee Tae-hoon, The Korea Times)

Boeing’s decision to abandon the F-15 Silent Eagle and Sukhoi’s exit have caused the ROK to reevaluate their requirement, dropping at least two initially requested items, including conformal weapons bays.

This leaves Lockheed Martin’s F-35, European Aeronautic Defence and Space Company N.V. (EADS) Eurofighter Typhoon, Boeing’s downgraded offering (likely to be an F-15K upgrade), and a late application by Saab with their Gripen NG fighter aircraft (Though from DAPA’s site, hard to ascertain if Saab made it to Monday’s RFP).

The race now appears to be the F-35 vs everything else. With Boeing failing to design a new F-15 fitting of the ROK’s initial requirements, the Typhoon’s lack of conformal weapons bays and other potential stealth abilities, and the Gripen’s downgrade in performance when compared to the Typhoon, it looks to be the clear front-runner in this race.

The F-35 already meets many of DAPA’s expressed requirements, and their retooling of those needs was potentially the only way to see more than just Lockheed Martin at today’s RFP meeting.

Boeing, EADS, and Saab will likely base their proposals more on cost efficiency and value, but South Korea remains looking for a modern fighter with stealth capabilities, and not fighters that could have very nearly slipped into their previous FX-II fighter acquisition program.

It appears that South Korea will be following in Japan’s footsteps in acquiring F-35s, but the race remains interesting, even if some the horses have sprained their ankles or are now running in other directions.

While we may still see a dark horse upset as DAPA reviews proposals and offers, this author laments the loss of a potential bizarro-world universe where Iranians pilots fly F-14s and South Koreans fly Sukhoi T-50s.

Officials from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and EADS attend RFP presentation (Source: Yonhap)

Officials from Boeing, Lockheed Martin and EADS attend RFP presentation (Source: Yonhap)

UPDATE:January 30, 2012, 4:40 PST: The picture on the right was released by Yonhap News today showing the goings-on from inside the RFP meeting.

If the picture and brief text synopsis on Yonhap is anything to go by, it looks like Saab wasn’t heavily represented at the meeting (if at all). Three models can clearly be seen in the picture, (from bottom to top) the EADS Eurofighter Typhoon, the Lockheed Martin F-35, and what very much appears to be a Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle.

After staring at the picture for some amount of time, Mike Yeo over at The Base Leg Blog was quite timely with the news that Boeing is (at the very least) claiming to be completely on point with their F-15SE development schedule.

It appears that the F-15SE has made it to the party, and will be competing with the F-35 and Typhoon for South Korea’s FX-III 60-plane order.

*Special thanks to Asian Defense Blog for alerting me to Sukhoi’s departure from the project, as well as James, who tossed this news “across the breakfast table” immediately upon my first cup of tea this morning. A second helping of thanks goes to Mike Yeo, who hit me with the perfect link as I stared idly at a small picture of a model airplane.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch