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At least one bid qualified for $7.4 billion South Korea fighter jet deal

South Korean soldiers attend an annual military parade in Chuncheon, northeast of Seoul June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
South Korean soldiers attend an annual military parade in Chuncheon, northeast of Seoul June 21, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korea said on Friday that at least one bid came in under budget for its 8.3 trillion Korean won ($7.42 billion) purchase of 60 next generation fighter jets, the country's biggest-ever defense import program to replace its ageing fleet.

A spokesman at the government's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said at a briefing that a comprehensive evaluation would start and that a winner was expected to be chosen in mid-September.

DAPA resumed the bidding this week after suspending the process in July due to price gaps.

Lockheed Martin Corp's F-35, Boeing Co's F-15 and EADS's Eurofighter Typhoon are in the race.

Spokesman Baek Youn-hyeong declined to give the number or name of the companies that had submitted the required price.

"A qualified company that came under the total project budget will be selected finally," Baek said.

South Korea had originally aimed to pick a winner by October 2012, but last year's presidential election and criticism that the government had rushed matters slowed the process.

Analysts say the government is unlikely to meet the planned first delivery date of 2017.

The program seeks to partially replace some 150 ageing F-4 and F-5 jets that South Korea plans to retire starting in 2015.

(Reporting by Ju-min Park and Joyce Lee; Editing by Himani Sarkar)

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