|An F-35A Lightning II fighter flies over Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas in this March 28, 2018. / Korea Times file|
By Park Ji-won
Two F-35A stealth fighter aircraft will be delivered to South Korea from the U.S. by the end of March, a military source said Sunday.
"Two F-35As out of 10, which the Air Force will receive this year, will arrive in South Korea by the end of March. They will be deployed by around April or May," a source familiar with the matter said.
The source said two aircraft will arrive every month and up to 10 stealth fighters will be handed over by the end of the year. The Air Force will possibly complete their deployment during the same time. By the end of 2018, the Air Force had taken over six F-35As for training at Arizona's Luke Air Force Base in the U.S.
The F-35As are expected to play a key role in South Korea's pre-emptive strike system, previously referred to as Kill Chain and currently known as the strategic target strike against North Korean missile provocation.
The planes will a stop in Hawaii and Guam, and also be refueled by U.S. air tankers.
In March 2014, the Air Force agreed to purchase 40 of the radar-evading strike aircraft from Lockheed Martin for 7.4 trillion won. A single plane is reportedly priced at around 120 billion won.
The first F-35A stealth fighter aircraft for South Korea made its public debut last year in the United States. South Korea and the U.S. held a joint rollout ceremony for the plane at Lockheed Martin's assembly line in Fort Worth, Texas in March.
From the end of 2017, South Korean fighter pilots were dispatched to the U.S. to receive flight training for the jets. The first solo mission was flown in July last year.