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S. Korea to finalize F-35 jet fighter deal this year

SEOUL--South Korea plans to finalize the purchase of 40 next-generation F-35 jet fighters from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin later this year, Seoul's military procurement agency said.

The South's air force has been looking to upgrade its ageing fleet of Boeing F-4 and F-5 fighters in the light of North Korea's growing nuclear threat.

The absence of a stealth capability was behind the military's decision in September to block a US$7.7 billion deal to buy 60 of Boeing's F-15 fighters.

The Boeing aircraft was the only one to come in under the US$7.7 billion budget approved by parliament.

The F-35A takes off and lands conventionally. The F-35B variant can land vertically, like the obsolete Harrier plane, and its users will include the U.S. Marines and Britain's armed forces.

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