SEOUL - South Korea's decision to reject a bid by Boeing to supply 60 warplanes and to re-issue a tender was made in the interests of stealth technology but may not be justified given North Korea's weak air capabilities, experts said.
Lockheed Martin's F-35A, previously considered too expensive, has shot to the front of the race for a multi-billion dollar deal after the Defence Ministry singled out a fifth-generation fighter as the preferred option.
Boeing's F-15 Silent Eagle, the only bid within budget, had been poised to win the 8.3 trillion won (US$9.6 billion) tender. But former military top brass and ruling party legislators had criticised the aircraft for lacking stealth capabilities.
However, the air power of old rival North Korea was, by itself, not enough to warrant scrapping the tender in favour of stealth, experts said.
"It should not be hard to get air superiority against North Korea using conventional fighters because the air force is basically grounded, their pilots don't have any experience, and their air defence is from the 1950s," said Markus Schiller, senior analyst at Munich-based Schmucker Technologie.
"The capability that they get with the F-15 would be sufficient."