Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-35A Lightning II stealth fighters were rated as operationally unready on 234 occasions over an 18-month period ending in June due to malfunctions, a lawmaker said on Oct. 4, 2022, Yonhap News Agency reports.
During the period the strike fighters were grounded on 172 instances while there were 62 cases in which the jets could fly but were unable to carry out certain missions, Rep. Shin Won-sik of the ruling People Power Party said citing ROKAF data.
Shin stressed that the ROKAF should make strenuous efforts not only to introduce such high-end weapons systems but also to maintain them.
Grounded fifth-generation fighters could carry out missions for only 12 days on average last year and 11 days in the first half of this year.
In comparison, the F-4E and the F-5 older generation fighters were grounded 26 and 28 times, respectively, over the 18-month period.
The ROKAF said there were no problems in maintaining the readiness posture as the F-35As met their target operation rate of 75 percent, but it acknowledged issues in acquiring parts for defects identified in the newly introduced model, adding it will work to swiftly receive them from the manufacturer.
The ROKAF received the last of 40 F-35As in January under the country’s first project to procure the stealth fighter manufactured by Lockheed Martin.
The Republic of Korea concluded its F-X III fighter acquisition program with the signing of a Letter of Offer and Acceptance (LOA) between the US and Korean governments on Sep. 30, 2014, for 40 F-35A Conventional Take Off and Landing (CTOL) variant jets with initial deliveries beginning in 2018.
The first F-35A for the ROKAF, known as aircraft AW-1, made its public debut in late March 2018 and pilot training began at Luke AFB, Ariz. in spring 2018. Aircraft were delivered to the 17th Fighter Wing at Chongju Air Base in 2019 to meet South Korea’s national security requirements.
The Republic of Korea faces a unique and complex threat environment. No other fighter aircraft in the world is better equipped to ensure the ROKAF can maintain regional security stability than the 5th Generation F-35A Lightning II stealth fighter.
Photo credit: U.S. Air Force
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