By Song Sang-ho and Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL, Oct. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's radar-evading F-35A fighters were rated as operationally unready on 234 occasions over an 18-month period ending in June due to malfunctions, a lawmaker said Tuesday.
Citing Air Force data, Rep. Shin Won-sik of the ruling People Power Party said that during the period, the 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.
Shin disclosed the data, stressing the South Korean military 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 Air Force said there were no problems in maintaining the readiness posture as the F-35As met their target operation rate of 75 percent.
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.
South Korea completed the deployment of 40 F-35As in January under the country's first project to procure the stealth fighter manufactured by U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin.
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