The first Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II fighter for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) was officially unveiled at a ceremony at Lockheed Martin’s Fort Worth facility on March 28.
South Korea has ordered 40 F-35As, and these will replace early build Lockheed Martin F-16s in ROKAF service, and complement Boeing F-15Ks and upgraded F-16C/Ds.
“Today is a truly meaningful day as we celebrate the roll-out of ROKAF’s first F-35A, the world’s best fighter jet, which will secure the sovereign airspace of the Republic of Korea,” the South Korea’s Minister of Defence, Song Young-moo said in a recorded message. “The deployment of the F-35 will serve as momentum to enhance the combined operations of the ROK-US Air Forces, and advance ROKAF’s support capabilities for ground operations.”
Vice Adm. Mat Winter, F-35 Program Executive Officer added, “This is a major step forward for our F-35 Enterprise and our ROKAF partners as we deliver Korea’s first F-35, the first of six F-35 aircraft that will be delivered this year.”
The ROKAF F-35s will initially be integrated into the International Training Centre at Luke AFB in Arizona for pilot and maintainer training, before arriving in Korea in 2019.