S Korea military chiefs endorse development of home-built fighter jet
Plans to design and manufacture a twin-engine fighter costing up to 8.5 trillion won were announced by South Korea's army leaders in Seoul on Friday
South Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff endorsed a plan on Friday for the country to design and make its own mid-level fighter jet, which a state think tank estimated will cost up to 8.5 trillion won (HK$6.4 billion) to develop.
Dubbed the KF-X programme, the fighter jet is expected to be built by the country’s sole jet builder, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), after being co-developed with US-based Lockheed Martin, two people with direct knowledge of the matter said.
The Joint Chiefs said in a statement that they had endorsed a twin-engine fighter jet to be developed for delivery starting in 2025.
KAI makes the T-50 family of jets, South Korea’s first home-built light trainer and fighter, which was also co-developed by Lockheed Martin. South Korea is also buying F-35 fighters from Lockheed Martin.
KAI sold 12 T-50 variants to the Philippines for around US$420 million in March, after previously exporting the jets to Iraq and Indonesia.
South Korea’s acquisition of 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 fighter jets for around 7.34 trillion won is expected to be finalised in the third quarter of this year. The deal’s accompanying offset offer includes Lockheed Martin involvement in the KF-X programme, the people said.
However, the scope of Lockheed Martin’s involvement in the programme is still being negotiated, the people added.
Indonesia also participated in earlier studies of the KF-X programme and remains a potential partner, one of the people said.
State-run think tank the Korea Institute for Defence Analyses (KIDA) reported earlier this month that a twin-engine version of the fighter jet is expected to cost around 8.5 trillion won, the person told reporters.
Both sources declined to be identified as details of defence requirements are confidential. Officials with Lockheed Martin could not be reached for comment.
KAI referred questions to the country’s arms procurement agency, the Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA), as companies have yet to be named for the programme. DAPA referred questions to the Joint Chiefs, who reiterated their statement.