Boeing is favorite to win one of the world's biggest defense deals of the year on Tuesday when South Korea names the winner of an 8.3 trillion won ($7.7 billion) fighter jet tender, with its F-15 Silent Eagle the only candidate within budget.
Only under-budget bids can be selected, according to South Korean law, leaving Boeing in the box seat unless a new tender is called. There is still a possibility top decision makers including the president can scrap the current auction, but experts say that is a long shot.
Bids by rival Lockheed Martin's F-35A and Eurofighter consortium's Typhoon were both over budget.
Debate has intensified as the tender decision has drawn closer and 15 South Korean former air force chiefs signed a petition in late August opposing the selection of Boeing's F-15SE, saying it lacked the stealth capabilities of more modern aircraft.
Plagued by multiple delays that pushed back first delivery by three years to 2017, and a total budget fixed without wriggle room, top decision-makers are now keen to buy jets as soon as possible to partially replace ageing F-4 and F-5 fighters and maintain combat capabilities.