S. Korea Eying Russia’s Stealth Fighter

It looks like the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter officially has some fifth-generation fighter competition. South Korea is eying Sukhoi’s PAK FA stealth fighter as an option for its next gen fighter fleet.

In addition to the PAK FA, Soul is looking at F-35, Boeing’s F-15SE Silent Eagle and the Eurofighter Typhoon. Quite the interesting crowd for what will no doubt be an interesting competition to supply the ROKAF with 60 fifth-gen fighters. Keep in mind that the Sukhoi is just year into flight testing and the F-35 is still not out of the woods fiscally.

South Korea is set to declare a winner in October 2012

  • chaos0xomega

    Seems kind of strange to me that a plane intended to be an F-22 analogue (air superiority) would be considered in the same category as the F-35 (strike). Is the US really one of the only countries that makes such a distinction?

    I for one would welcome this. The lost F-35 sales would be a bad blow, but it would give the USAF a chance to test the capabilities of the F-22 vs. the PAK-FA in a friendly environment.

    • CSZ

      Most air forces in the world can only afford a fleet of multi-role fighters; pretty much the only country having distinction of air superiority vs strike IS the US. Most other air forces are for air defense - even Russia had only interceptors and front line fighters.

    • FtD

      love to see how PAK-FA go against F-35 too…..

  • Mastro

    If the PAK-FA is only a year into flight testing no way it gets chosen by Oct 2012.

    This is just a negotiating tactic.

  • CSZ

    And I thought S Korea and Indonesia are to jointly develop fifth generation fighter, the KF-X, whose picture was apparently stolen by the Chinese to create their J-20.

    So I guess the KF-X is a dud, huh. I hope Indonesia did not pay in advance like what India normally does.

  • Matt

    Ok why is the Typhoon in there? Is it some type of cheap backup plan for the ROK? The logical choice for them would seem to be the F-15SE (they already fly F-15K so they’d already be familiar with the system, plus it’s stealthy but still cheaper than the F-35/PAK-FA)

  • Hunter78

    There is good reason to downgrade US weapons for sales. US is best in kill-weapon encoding.


    This is demonstration that South Korea no longer needs the US as the Korean War ended in 1953, it’s time for the US to withdraw our troops because it’s time for South Korea to stand on it’s two feet; they’ve had over 50 years to prepare and are now a growing financial power as there’s no reason why the US should spend $Billions when our country faces difficult financial issues. On the same note, the US should withdraw troops from Europe also as France has entered a joint venture with Russia in building a military naval vessel and the same argument goes for Europe also because we’re just flushing our tax-dollars down the toilet.

  • superraptor

    I agree with you. We also should allow our allies to develop their own nuclear deterrence for example Japanese Nuclear Missile subs.

  • Tim

    More Ruskie Crap .

  • ServingTeaInBoots

    No frigging way that ROKAF would by Rooski jet. Just doesn’t make sense in terms of non-interoperability with existing weapon stores (probably all US) and compatibility with existing data systems that they probably have for their F-16 and F-15 with their ground based radar and their future Wedgetail AWACS. Not to mention having to train people to learn Cyrillic, whereas practically every Korean knows some English. The only way ROKAF would go this route would be if there is a ton of technology transfer from the Russians, they are sure that the US won’t buy KAI/LM T-50 Golden Eagle trainers for their aging T-38s, and Russians still owe money to Korea - which was the reason why you see the Russian helos, hovercrafts, T-80U tanks, etc.

    • chaos0xomega

      Why would Koreans have to learn Cyrillic? Generally that kind of stuff is all localized when foreign sales are concerned. As for non-interoperability, there are a bunch of eastern european nations that are members of NATO that operate Cold War era Russian jets to NATO (and by extension, US) standards no problem.

    • FtD

      I’m sure SK can buy AIM9, AMRAAM, JDAM adaptor kits from China before the paint dries….

    • SJE

      Plenty of countries have both Russian and Western kit.

      Besides, this is more about politics, and getting the attention of a powerful regional ally. The Russian Pacific fleet is based close to the NORK border, and the Russkies don’t care for the Chinese.

  • huh

    Korea allowing the Russians to sell them high-tech weapons??!!! Unbelievable! My fellow Republican Brownshirts, this is Obama Obummers fault!

  • SJE

    I see this as a smart move by ROK. NORK is so close to imploding and is also adopting an agressive stance. The ROK might need some more advanced weapons able to penetrate NORK defenses, and therefore be a more credible deterrent.

    It is also very good politics. ROK can’t rely exclusively on the USA. So, it needs friends.

    ROK previously sought good relations with China and NORK. NORK developed nukes anyway, torpedoes ROK ships and shells the county. That isnt working out so well, and even the Chinese are starting to wonder if they can keep a leash on their client state. Purchasing from Russia aligns the ROK closer to Russia, and against NORK and China. Plus, Russia borders NORK, as a potential front in the even of some conflict with ROK. Of course, I see most of this as posturing, but it only has to be enough to give the NORK some pause before they engage in the next provocation.

  • Tim

    Eurofighter/gripen/Rafale would all thrash these frankly fantasy Russian “Stealth” Jets .Ask anyone in the know about how crap Russian Radars ,ECM are . If more than fifty get built I will eat my shoes .

    • job

      you love america too much, like rats on a sinking ship, your america is going down, bubble bubble….bubble…

  • FtD

    China may give NKorea some free J-20 & play hide & seek with SKorea PAK-FA… whilst USN keeps their F-35C on deck to prevent embarrassment from being painted 9/10 times

  • Stratege

    “Seems kind of strange to me that a plane intended to be an F-22 analogue (air superiority) would be considered in the same category as the F-35 (strike). ”

    T-50 never had destination as an F-22 analogue in its role (air-air only), at least, in Russian military.
    PAK-FA is multi-role “Prospective Airborne Complex of Frontline Aviation”
    It’s not just a air-air platform. It also could be configured as strike aircraft.

    Domestic PAK-FA configuration:

    Radar system Sh-121:
    5 radars. One main X-band AESA + two side-looking x-band AESA + two L-band transmitters/receivers (probably for ECM and reconnaissance role).

    PAK-FA’s armament:

    - short-range AAMs (new developments for PAK-FA program)
    - middle-range AAMs (new developments for PAK-FA program)
    - ultra-long range missile (the R-73’s sucessor) on internal hardpoints
    - cruise missiles in interal bays and on external hardpoints
    - air-to-ground missiles

    • Gregory Savage

      Let’s see the Russian’s get all of that wiz bang stuff working in the next 10 years. I doubt it to be honest, they haven’t had a too successful weapons program of a late. Not that ours are gleaming shining examples, but they seem even worst off.

  • Stratege

    “No frigging way that ROKAF would by Rooski jet. ”

    It’s all about politics, more than weapons standarts.

  • CSZ

    Note that this is just a political cry-baby move. They are just saying ‘sell me the F-35 on the cheap or I’ll buy something else’.

    But Ye don’t just buy the greatest hardware available on the market, you also buy the logistics i.e. maintenance, ground crew training, equipment, compatible weapons, all that nice stuff. S Korea is an American weapon shop. Last time I checked, Russian aircraft does not fire AIM-9x or can be diagnosed using American computers.

    So relax, this is not going to happen. While it sounds impressive to have the ‘united nations’ in your arsenel, only in two places this will truly happen - a boy’s model collection, and India air force.

    • blight

      The Russians obviously need to offer something to overcome that-for instance Korean avionics are probably superior to Russian ones. More likely than not they will be re-equipping the guts of the aircraft as far as it can go.

  • Zap

    ROK buy F-15
    USA buy T-50
    that is the deal Korea wants , Typhoon and PAK FA are just included for negotiating

  • Harvey Meltzer

    Maybe they should go back to the 60’s we gave them A whole bunch of F-86’s. They were so thrilled with new bird that they put up almost all of them on Xmas eve. then lost several right off the bat. Why ? Never seen before ,weird equipment to them. Books in a differnt language. and many other little things. How do I know. I and my team mates spent the rest of the night chugging around in our antique H-19,s picking up crews. At least they new about eject!. One pilot was trying ti to figure out how to pay ROKAF for the busted bird. NASTROVEYA

  • Tom

    I don’t for one second believe that Korea would consider buying Russian equipment for such an important procurement considering their two greatest threats are North Korea and China, two countires that have historic ties with Russia (though strained at times).

    • SJE

      Historic yes. But Russian and China have fought border wars directly and through proxies (e.g. India, Vietnam). The Russians see their power in the far east threatened by China, and everyone sees regional stability threatened by a wacko NORK with nukes.

      • Tom

        We are talking about what is probably the single most important piece of equipment S. Korea will buy in the next ten years. I understand Russia is not as cozy as it used to be with N. Korea and China, but if it comes down to a shooting war, S. Korea can’t take the chance that Russia will again side with who they’ve sided with in the past, cutting off support for this weapon system (or worse).

        • blight

          “Single most important”?

          In any case, the ROK runs a mix of old American gear, a scant few old Russian pieces along with indigenous production. Their interest might simply be as a design inspiration for a locally-designed/locally-built 5th gen fighter. And they know they can get a stealth fighter before they can get their hands on a JSF or a F-22.

          • SJE

            I agree. Its also a signal to the USA that (a) ROK needs some luv and attention and (b) there is too much screwing around on the F35 etc.

          • Tom

            What equipment will they be buying in the next ten years more important than a multi-role fighter? It’s really not a very bold statement because I would actually say that multi-role fighters are the single most important piece of equipment in any modern military’s arsenal.

          • jhm

            what!!! teh russian equipment they have is directily from Russia to help pay off their debt to S. Korea. this package includes teh bmp3 t80 adn etc

  • Mark

    The expensive variant of the F-35 was to cost no more than 38 million a copy. I believe the current cost is ludicrous.

  • Tim

    He, article author — it’s “Seoul”, not “Soul.”

  • dockem

    The thing looks more like a F22 than a F35.

  • Sanem

    - on US bases in Korea: a good idea in my book, with US bases in the EU, Middle East/Stans and Korea, the US is able to surround the three biggest threats to its global power, i.e. Russia, Iran and China

    kind of like castle gate keeps, they force the enemy through bottle necks. the Pentagon for one thing has had plans to invade Afghanistan since the early 90’s, as it allows you to put a military force between these three countries (and Pakistan)

    - on the T-50: I do believe it’ll be ready in just a few years, unlike most countries Russia likes to rapid prototype, putting in systems and testing them one by one, rather than all at once, a strategy adopted also used by Skunk Works and Phantom Works, greatly decreasing development risks

    but I doubt the the Koreans will buy them, while excellent aircraft, it’ll make Korea too dependant on Russia, which is known as a terrible supplier (ask India)

    - alternatives: the F-35, while an excellent aircraft, will be extremely expensive and underperforming, a fat kid with the newest gadgets in a line of lean hunters

    the F-15 SE will be nice, but Korea already has these, so I’m guessing they’ll like something more modern, and a break with US overdependence which we’re also seeing in Japan

    leaving the Typhoon, for the same reasons as Japan is likely to buy it: high performant, a newer generation than the F-15, with a lot of future development room, and an excellent industry and tech-transfer offset

  • Tim

    I think this is mostly marketing gesture on the part of the Russians. However, most people do not realize that Russia actually owed South Korea money (not sure when/where/how) and the Russians did try in the past to pay the South Koreans with their weapons.

    It’s also hard to believe something only “planned” to complete testing by 2015 will be considered for sale by 2012. As far as we know, the T-50 doesn’t even have the powerful engine it is supposed to have yet, as well as the avionics and oh yeah… the “stealth” system that the Russians are touting besides the shape which is only a part of overall stealth.

  • Lance

    The F-15 SE is all new version of the F-15 its not a F-15E. I still think South Korea will buy F-15SE to fully replace F-4 and F-5s in there inventory over the next few decades. The Russian is a real chance of being the only real stealth fighter in foreign hands that crappy chi-com plane has its own issues. Since South Korea bought T-80 tanks from Russia I wouldn’t be surprised to see a few PAK bought.

    • Tom

      The F-15SE is NOT an ‘all new version’ of the F-15E, it has different conformal fuel tanks and the tail fins are canted, that’s about it structually.

    • jhm

      why? wat about the dokdo class assault carriers?

  • Lance

    The F-15 SE is far more modern than a plane F-15E the South Koreans will buy them to replace the older F-4s in service for years to come. I think the F-15 is far better than the EuroFighter period in weapons load and in maneuverability. But this isnt the first time South Korea bout or got Russian weapons they bought and received on two occasions T-80 tanks and use them.

  • Deerbandit

    You know what screw the South Koreans. They have never liked us and sure don’t want us in their country. This posturing for their new fighter is just another example of their contempt for America. Look at the movie Captain America. There are 3 countries that won’t allow the movie in their country under that name. Russia, the country of Georgia, and you guessed it South Korea. They say that there is too much anti American sentiment so they can’t use the name.
    Well I say if they hate us that much let’s leave their butts and let them defend themselves. Americans have died for them to be free. We subsidize their country and their military. America is the only reason North Korea has not destroyed them. It’s time to let them fend for themselves. Just my 2 cents worth.

  • Allen S.

    I agree with what others have stated above, we no longer need to be in SK or Japan, other than as a counterweight to growing PRC regional influence. SK could defend against a NK invasion on her own, she has a significant qualitative edge. Even in the worst case scenario, our aircraft would be flying missions over the region in a matter of hours, and troops arriving in a matter of days.

    Japan is also highly capable of defending her interests on her own. Her navy alone can stand up to what the PLAN is fielding, and her air force could easily counter PLAAF incursions into the region. The biggest threat would be from PLA missiles. I simply can no longer believe we truly need all the bases we have, particularly in Europe, where we have provided the bulwark of European security for too long. Europe can defend herself, and again if we are needed, we can be there long before Russian forces are on the outskirts of Warsaw or Prague……YMMV

    • crackedlenses

      We are there to deter them from ever taking the step; pull out, and there is a much higher chance that the bad guys (NK, etc.) will take the risk of invading…..

  • Oblat

    The South Koreans can opt for the superior aircraft from the Russians or buy second rate stuff from Lockheed and see the North Koreans outclass them with a Pak-fa squadron.

  • huh

    Then Leave… No one’s stopping you Mr. Yankee-doodle!

  • jhm

    This is hilarioius. Why would S. Korea even opt the suk? In Korea right now, all of my friends are laughing at this article. Teh dokdo class assault ships require a fighter in hte harrier class, which means the f35b. also, korea would not buy the typhoon since it already lost the previous compettion, its not even stealthy. S. Korea has always been loyal to US toys such as the f15 and f16 and currently with teh US slowly drawing out forces from S. Korea, recieving US weaponry would seem smart in terms of logistics adn procurement as teh remaining US forces will hv the f35

  • Frogman wannabe

    If you want a dog fighter you buy Russian. If you want stealth you buy American. Totally different air doctrines between the two countries.

  • RedLeg6

    If they go Ruusian, then cut all aid and start pulling troops out. I would cut all aid now!

    • slashandburn

      Tajikistan and Uzbekistan better start buying American products or else we’ll stop using their infrastructure to resupply troops in Afghanistan. Cut all aid!

  • Buzz

    I have worked with extensively with russian equipment and I can say they design 1st rate stuff and build garbage. This plane will be no different.