South Korea’s state defense procurement committee has approved the acquisition of an additional 20 Lockheed Martin F-35A lightning II fighter jets.
The purchase was approved by a special subcommittee, paving the way for a feasibility study that could lead to 3.9 trillion won ($3 billion) order, according to the South Korea Herald.
If approved, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) could begin to receive the new aircraft in 2023.
South Korea has been mulling the purchase of additional F-35As since 2017, alongside a plan to possibly order a fleet of F-35Bs, capable of operating off the country’s amphibious assault ships.
The new aircraft would join 40 F-35s already operated by ROKAF. The aircraft, ordered in 2013, were delivered between 2019 and 2022, making South Korea one of the few countries to operate a significant number of fifth-generation fighter jets.
The F-35s would operate alongside the KAI KF-21 Boramae, South Korea’s upcoming domestically manufactured stealth fighter jet, which is expected to enter into service in 2026.
According to the South Korea Herald, the country’s military is expected to receive the new batch of American-made stealth fighters by the middle of the 2020s, right before commencing procurement of the domestic aircraft.