KF-X Moves Forward

The Republic of Korea announced with great fanfare its choice of Korean Aerospace Industries, partnered with Lockheed Martin, to develop an indigenous fighter to replace the ROK Air Force’s aging F-4 and F-5 jets, but the deal is still unsettled, industry and government sources said Tuesday. The KF-X deal is reportedly worth $7.7 billion and is to produce some 120 jets by about 2025. ROKAF’s 2013 purchase of 40 F-35s involved technology transfer as an offset. However, government and industry sources said the US government has yet to decide whether all aspects of the F-35 tech transfer desired by ROK for the KF-X—in radar, avionics, and other technologies—is releasable. At least two months of talks are needed at a government-to-government level before Lockheed is even involved in the discussions, sources said. Drawings released by the ROKAF show a two-engined KF-X that resembles the F-22, but government and industry officials said it will be more akin to a 4.5 generation aircraft. The ROK defense ministry said it aims for a KF-X contract to be inked in the first half of this year. Indonesia is also underwriting some of the development, and presumably will also buy the resulting aircraft. The winning KAI/Lockheed team, which also collaborates on the T-50 trainer and ROKAF F-16s, was favored over the rival partnership of Korean Air Lines/Airbus. (See also ROK to Select F-X by April, KF-X by Summer)