With the final selection of Korea’s next-generation fighter set for Sep 24, we’ve got quite a few folk unhappy with the sole choice on the table, the F-15 Silent Eagle.
And by “quite a few unhappy folk,” I include 15 former chiefs of the ROKAF, who naturally wonder why Korea should be buying a “next-generation” fighter based on a 40-year-old airframe:
“We can’t just choose minicars over sedans because they are cheap,” said Kim Hong-rae who served as the air force chief of staff in 1994 and 1995.
“Like the United States and Japan, we need F-35s as fifth-generation aircraft. We can wait another one or two years, looking ahead 40 years, with the finally selected fighter jets,” Kim told Reuters, referring to any delay if the current process is cancelled.
The “F-15SE is still a paper airplane under development based on 1970′s models, which raises lots of questions on the effectiveness” of upgrading the F-15 platform, the statement said. “Japan recently bought 42 F-35s and the crucial weapons system to deter North Korea’s threats is a stealth fighter,” it added.
Of course, the problem with the F-35 is that exceeds the budget allocate for the project (probably something that would apply to the United States, too. Just ask John McCain). That and there were quite a few questions about the fighter even before it was disqualified for cost reasons.
In the end, the F-15SE may get disqualified, too, since it is only partially stealthy. The ROKAF—and more vocally, its former chiefs—wants a fully stealth aircraft to scare the crap out of the North Koreans—the appearance in Korea of American F-22s was enough to keep late North Korean leader Kim Jong-il indoors, after all. And yeah, China and Japan are developing/buying them, so Korea needs them, too. Or so the argument goes.
On the other hand, some argue against getting too fixated on stealth. Nothing is completely stealth, and at any rate, the Russians and Japanese are working on new radar systems to detect stealth fighters. Besides, for the cost of buying stealths, it might be more effective to buy more of the cheaper stuff to attack the North with after North Korea’s air defense system has been neutralised by missiles or American stealth aircraft. Or so some government official told the JoongAng Ilbo.