South Korea picks F-35 in win for Lockheed

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South Korea on Monday said it would purchase 40 F-35 fighters as the country’s next-generation aircraft, providing a boost to manufacturer Lockheed Martin.

The South Korean government announced Monday it had selected Lockheed’s F-35 Joint Strike Fighter after hinting in November it would choose it over Boeing’s F-15 Stealth Eagle aircraft.

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The country will pay roughly $6.8 billion for the 40 F-35A fighters, according to Reuters. The planes are scheduled to be delivered beginning in 2018.

“We are honored by and appreciate the trust and confidence the Republic of Korea has placed in the fifth-generation F-35 to meet its demanding security requirements,” Orlando Carvalho, Lockheed Aeronautics executive vice president, said in a statement.

“This decision strengthens and extends our long-standing security partnership while enhancing regional stability across the greater Asia-Pacific theater,” he said.

South Korea’s decision is a boost to the overall F-35 program, which has faced troubles as other countries considered reducing or backing out of planed F-35 purchases.

The F-35 Joint Strike Fighter’s fortunes brightened in South Korea last September, when the government rejected Boeing’s $7.7 billion bid for 60 F-15s and re-opened the competition for a new fighter.

Lockheed’s F-35 bid, along with one from EADS for its Eurofighter Typhoon, had initially been rejected for being over budget.

In November, South Korea showed signs that it would choose the F-35, as government officials talked about wanting next-generation stealth capabilities only available in the aircraft.