South Korea to spend $2.5B to upgrade F-16 fleet
SEOUL, South Korea – The U.S. State Department has approved a possible $2.5 billion sale in F-16 upgrades to South Korea as part of Seoul’s effort to revamp its aging fighter fleet.
The sale, announced this week, would contribute to the security of both the U.S. and South Korea, which faces an ever-present threat of hostilities from North Korea, said the U.S. Defense Security Cooperation Agency.
“This upgrade allows (South Korea) to protect and maintain critical airspace and provide a powerful defensive and offensive capability to preserve the security of the Korean peninsula and its vital national assets. (South Korea) will have no difficulty absorbing this additional equipment and support into its armed forces,” said a statement from the agency, which notified Congress of the possible sale on Tuesday.
The upgrades would include modular mission computers, radars, navigation systems and other equipment and logistical support, according to DSCA.
Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman will be the principal contractors if the sale is completed. The sale will not alter the basic military balance in the region, DSCA said.
Seoul has requested the purchase to upgrade 134 of its KF-16C/D Block 52 aircraft. However, the proposed sale has come under scrutiny in South Korea because of the cost. South Korea had previously awarded BAE Systems a contract worth approximately $1.5 billion to upgrade the KF-16s, but canceled that deal after the U.S. and BAE asked to increase the price by nearly $700 million, Yonhap News reported.
Congress has 30 days after notification to block a possible sale, according to Reuters. The news organization also reported that South Korea and BAE Systems are engaged in a legal fight because of the canceled contract, with lawsuits filed in both U.S. and South Korean courts.