South Korea boosts air defenses with about $6.8 billion budget for F-35s

Mon Mar 24, 2014 1:43am EDT
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By Joyce Lee

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea expects to pay around 7.34 trillion won ($6.79 billion) for 40 Lockheed Martin (LMT.N: Quote) F-35 fighter jets, two sources with knowledge of the matter said on Monday, as Seoul boosts its air defenses amid simmering tensions in the region.

South Korea also confirmed plans to buy four Northrop Grumman (NOC.N: Quote) Global Hawk unmanned aircraft to monitor its prickly neighbor North Korea. The drones will cost about 880 billion won and will be delivered starting 2018, one of the sources said.

The defense deals also come as ties between Japan, China and South Korea have chilled over the past year, and the region's three powers look to beef up their defensive capabilities.

Seoul's arms procurement agency reported the estimated budget of around 7.34 trillion won to buy the radar-evading F-35s plus support systems to a committee overseeing military purchases earlier on Monday, the second source said.

The sources declined to be identified as they were not authorized to speak to media.

South Korea says the F-35 deal will be finalized in the third quarter, with the first delivery in 2018.

The budget has received the final approval of the finance ministry, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) spokesman Baek Youn-hyeong said.

Lockheed said in a statement it welcomed South Korea's announcement and it would support discussions between Seoul and Washington to finalize the order this year.   Continued...

A F-35 fighter jet prepares for landing with its life fan cover deployed over Patuxent River Naval Air Station, Maryland in this undated handout image. REUTERS/Lockheed Martin/Handout