Boeing on Monday formally offered its KC-46 Pegasus tanker for the Republic of Korea’s new aerial tanker program, the company announced June 30. The ROK Air Force wants four tankers for under $1.3 billion; they would extend the reach of its fighters. The KC-46 is up against the Airbus A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport, which it defeated in 2011 for the US Air Force KC-X competition (although an A330 variant won the previous USAF contest, the choice was thrown out due to USAF source-selection mistakes). Israeli Aerospace Industries is offering ROKAF used Boeing cargo 767s, refurbished and configured as tankers. ROKAF Lt. Gen. Hyungchul Kim, speaking at an AFA event in March, said Korea expects to award a contract by the end of this year and take delivery by 2020. Korea has in recent years purchased the RQ-4 Global Hawk reconnaissance aircraft, as well as C-130J transports, F-35, F-15K, and F-16 fighters from the US. Kim said interoperability with the US is an “important factor” in ROKAF’s choice of military gear, but not the only one. Quid pro quo: He suggested USAF should buy Korea’s T-50 trainer (co-developed by Lockheed Martin and Korean Aerospace Industries) for the T-X program.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.