Lockheed Martin celebrates rollout of Republic of Korea’s F-35 fighter

by Ariel Graham

Lockheed Martin rolled out the first-ever Republic of Korea’s F-35A Lightning II fighter jet at a celebration hosted at its facility in Fort Worth on Wednesday, March 27.

Government officials and dignitaries from both the United States and the Republic of Korea were present to celebrate the acquisition and debut of the Korean Air Force’s newest addition. The F-35A Lightning II is a fifth-generation, stealth, multirole fighter plane as well as one of the most expensive and cutting-edge fighters on the market.

Among the aircraft’s numerous features are highly-durable, low-maintenance stealth technology, high-speed data networking, advanced integrated avionics, and sensor fusion that allows the pilot greater situational awareness, target identification, and weapon delivery. The Republic of Korea now joins a select few nations with F-35s in their arsenal, including Norway, Denmark, Australia, and Turkey.

Marilyn Hewson, chairman, president and CEO of Lockheed Martin, said the United States and the Republic of Korea have enjoyed a long-standing alliance in the Pacific, and this new fighter would only serve to strengthen their alliance.

“The Republic of Korea and the United States of America have a special bond of values, vision, and optimism,” Hewson said. “That bond will be further strengthened today, with the presentation of the first F-35 to the Republic of Korea Air Force. This historic moment was years in the making. It flows from our shared commitment to protect the lives of our citizens, to preserve global security, and to ensure growth and opportunity for future generations.”

Among the American officials were Senator John Cornyn, Congressman Marc Veasey, and Congresswoman and Chairwoman of the Defense Appropriations Subcommittee Kay Granger. Senator Cornyn spoke to the importance of Lockheed Martin’s Lightning II program not just on a local scale, but on a national scale.

“The Lightning II program is not just the largest defense contract in the Lone Star State, or even the United States, it’s the largest in the world,” Cornyn said. “Part of the reason is because it’s the most advanced fighter plane ever built, and therefore critical to our national security. The F-35 is changing the modern battlefield and reinforces American’s air dominance.”

The Korean delegation included Hack-Yong Kim, chairman of the Republic of Korea National Defense Committee; Choo-Suk Suh, Vice Minister of the Republic of Korea Ministry of National Defense, and Lieutenant General Seong-Yong Lee, Vice Chief of Staff of the Republic of Korea Air Force. Vice Minister Suh stated the F-35 will play a vital role in protecting Korea and represents the nation’s strong ties with the United States.

“As I am standing in front of the commanding F-35, I am reassured no threats will ever jeopardize security on the Korean peninsula,” Suh said. “The fulfillment of this advanced fighter jet is not just simply the acquisition of fighter jets, but rather, holds a symbolic significance of demonstrating our ironclad alliance.”

The alliance between Republic of Korea and the United States is not just on a global level, however. Lockheed Martin CEO Marilyn Hewson said Lockheed has its own alliance with KAI, Korea Aerospace Industries, as well.

“At Lockheed Martin, we know strengthening national security leads to greater economic security, greater trade, and opportunities for growth,” Hewson said. “A prime example of this is the partnership between our company and Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, to design and build the T-50 Golden Eagle. This long-standing Lockheed Martin/ KAI partnership provides a strong foundation for the development of the KF-X fighter for future endeavors.”

Hewson added, perhaps now more than ever, the United States’ strong alliance with the Republic of Korea is crucial to maintaining peace in the Asia-Pacific region.

“For more than 60 years, we’ve stood beside one another in times of trial, and in times of peace,” Hewson said. “Today, our ironclad alliance is needed more than ever. All around the world, we see new threats emerging. These threats touch every region and every domain: land, air, sea, space, and the cyber realm. They range from aggressive regimes issuing threats to great power competitions from nations seeking territorial expansion and regional domination. It is because of these challenges and others that peaceful nations must work together to stand firm for the ideals that unite us.”