As North Korea Rattles Sabres, Congress May Sell F-35s to the South

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As the confrontation on the Korean Peninsula heats up, the Defense Security Cooperation Agency announced (link opens a PDF) on Wednesday that it has notified Congress of plans to make a "Foreign Military Sale" to South Korea of 60 new F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters manufactured by Lockheed Martin (NYSE: LMT  ) .

The fighter jets, which would be sold in the "Conventional Take Off and Landing" configuration, are valued at $10.8 billion with included equipment, parts, training, and logistical support. They would be outfitted with F-135 engines built for the fighter by United Technologies' (NYSE: UTX  ) Pratt & Whitney division. In addition to installed engines, nine spare engines would be included in the price of the sale.

Justifying the sale, DSCA advised Congress that "this proposed sale will contribute to the foreign policy goals and national security objectives of the United States by meeting the legitimate security and defense needs of an ally and partner nation" and that "the proposed sale of F-35s will provide the Republic of Korea (ROK) with a credible defense capability to deter aggression in the region."

DSCA further advised that as the F-35s are delivered to South Korea, the ROK Air Force plans to decommission the ancient F-4 Phantom fighter jets currently in its arsenal to make way for the new planes.

DSCA noted in its letter than the F-35 sale is no done deal. Rather, South Korea is holding a competition to choose its next generation of fighter jets. Congressional preapproval of a sale would pave the way for Lockheed's participation in this competition.

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