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South Korea buys F-35s, drones amid tensions in region

Major T. J. "King" Kong: The JSF program's biggest fan?

Major T. J. “King” Kong: The JSF program’s biggest fan?

On Monday, Mar. 24, news broke that South Korea expects to pay around $6.79 billion for 40 F-35 fighter jets. It also confirmed plans to shell out for four of Northrop Grumman’s Global Hawks. According to Reuters, South Korea will likely use the Hawks to “monitor its prickly neighbor North Korea.”

South Korea is the 10th country to commit to purchasing the F-35.

The radar-evading jets, produced by Lockheed Martin, have been a source of at least several of the U.S. Defense Department’s headaches. At 70 percent over its budget, it’s the most expensive weapons system in U.S. history. (But it’s helping the American economy, says Lockheed.) It’s way behind schedule, and the delays keep rolling in. Then, of course, there’s the fact that its still missing some of its critical software — particularly the code that controls the weapons system — as well as the fact that it hasn’t completed most of its flight tests. And the helmet that’s so critical to the plane’s performance? Well, read this.

But for all the F-35s problems, it promises something “magical”: The most powerful, technologically advanced fighter ever. And with China’s huffing-and-puffing in the region and North Korea’s increasingly nutty behavior, that might seem like a breath of fresh air for South Korea. In addition, a replacement for its fleet of F-4s and F-5s has been a long time coming.

Now, whether the best way to tackle regional threats is dishing out dough for the most expensive fighter jet ever has yet to be decided.



Hannah Gais

Hannah is assistant editor at the Foreign Policy Association, a nonresident fellow at Young Professionals in Foreign Policy and the managing editor of Her work has appeared in a number of national and international publications, including Al Jazeera America, U.S. News and World Report, First Things, The Moscow Times, The Diplomat, Truthout, Business Insider and Foreign Policy in Focus.

Gais is a graduate of Hampshire College in Amherst, Mass. and the Institute for Orthodox Christian Studies, where she focused on Eastern Christian Theology and European Studies. You can follow her on Twitter @hannahgais