KAI 'Open' to Additional Foreign Partners on KFX

17 Oktober 2019

The next-generation KFX fighter aircraft is expected to enter series production in the mid-2020s. To support its development additional foreign companies could be contracted to provide assistance (photo : AIN)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is open to considering additional foreign partners on its project to develop the Korean Fighter Experimental (KFX) aircraft, Jane's has learnt. The potential move comes as the KFX project faces challenges related to investment and capabilities.

Due to funding shortages, Indonesia - Korea's KFX development partner - has stalled on about KRW300 billion (USD253 million) in costs to support its involvement in the project, while local industry faces obstacles to develop some critical technologies for the platform.

A KAI official, who did not want to be identified, told Jane's at the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) on 16 October that the KFX development project is still regarded as "open" in terms of technology partners. "This is still not finalised," he said in reference to KFX development alliances. "We could consider additional partners in the future."

Under a defence offset package linked to South Korea's 2014 procurement of the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II, the US corporation is already positioned as a technical partner on the KFX. Lockheed Martin is obligated to provide assistance across 21 technology suites including flight controls, avionics, systems integration, materials, and unspecified fighter aircraft weaponry.

However, the US government has also refused to export several technology suites under offsets, forcing South Korea to seek to develop these systems indigenously. These suites are related to the active electronically scanned array (AESA) systems, electro-optical targeting pods, infrared search and track systems, and radio frequency jammers.

Elta Systems, a subsidiary of Israel Aerospace Industries, is providing assistance to South Korean firm Hanwha Systems to develop the KFX's AESA radar.

Jane's understands that companies including Saab, Airbus and Boeing could also position themselves as future partners on the KFX, although the scope of that engagement would be subject to requirements, the structure of the partnership, and funding.


Subscribe to receive free email updates: