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S. Korea to build F-35 maintenance facility at Cheongju Air Base

April 18, 2024 - 09:57 By Yonhap
An F-35A stealth jet takes off from an air base in Cheongju, 112 kilometers south of Seoul, to attend an air defense drill on March 13, 2024. (Air Force)

South Korea will build its own maintenance facility for its F-35A stealth jets by 2027, a move that would enhance operational efficiency and reduce costs, the state arms procurement agency said Thursday.

South Korea's Air Force operates a fleet of 39 F-35As at an air base in Cheongju, 112 kilometers south of Seoul, after one jet retired last year due to damage from a bird strike.

In December, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration signed a letter of acceptance with the US government to procure an additional 20 jets, scheduled for delivery beginning in 2027.

DAPA said the second phase of the F-35A procurement deal includes provisions for South Korea to establish its own facility for heavy airframe maintenance, repairs, overhauls and upgrades, as well as stealth coating.

"(The facility) will eliminate the need for long-term overseas maintenance, thereby reducing aircraft downtime, as well as operational and maintenance costs," DAPA vice spokesperson You Hyoung-keun said during a regular press briefing.

"We plan to have the maintenance capabilities by the end of 2027," You added.

South Korea will be the third country in the Asia-Pacific to have an F-35 maintenance facility, following Australia and Japan.

The US has permitted South Korea to conduct minor maintenance on the F-35As due to security concerns, while major maintenance has been delegated to a regional repair base in Japan.

The F-35A is a key asset for the South Korean military due to its high-performance radar and stealth capabilities, enabling it to carry out long-range strategic strikes without being detected by the enemy. (Yonhap)