|Foreign Partners To Help Finance South Korea’s KFX Stealth Fighter
Aviation Week & Space Technology
11/19/2007, page 32
Printed headline: Financing the KFX
South Korea will ask foreign partners to share development costs for its proposed KFX stealth fighter, moving beyond technical collaboration previously described.
The foreign companies would pay for up to 30% of the program, says air force colonel Daeyeol Lee, head of the air system development team at Korea’s Agency for Defense Development. BAE Systems has expressed interest in developing the radar for the aircraft, Lee told a conference in Seoul.
Alenia Aeronautica hopes to supply the weapons section of the KFX—which may mean the weapons bay, for which it is also responsible on the collaborative Neuron program to develop a European combat-drone technology demonstrator.
EADS would like to provide KFX flight control and stealth technologies, among other elements, the agency says. EADS is believed to have offered an improved Typhoon as the basis for KFX. Saab also wishes to be a key partner, with designs evolved from its Gripen. The agency says Boeing, Snecma and General Electric are weighing whether to join the development program for the aircraft, which would serve between 2020 and 2040.
That target represents a slip from the 2017 operational date stated in the earlier program plan. A government decision on proceeding with the KFX is to be made in 2009, allowing 11 years to develop and produce the first of 140 aircraft.
Officials say the KFX would have “capabilities” between those of the F-15 and F-16, although they are presumably referring to its size and thrust, since a stealth aircraft fielded in 2020 would be expected to comfortably outperform 1970s-era designs. Accordingly, the KFX’s twin engines should be in the class of the General Electric F414 or Snecma M88, used on the Boeing F/A-18E/F and Dassault Rafale, respectively. Snecma describes the M88 as “the cornerstone of a family of new-generation engines based on a common core.”
Notably absent from Lee’s list of potential partners is Lockheed Martin, which was heavily involved in the design and development of the Korea Aerospace T-50 supersonic jet trainer. It paid 13% of the development cost in return for a share of the unit price that the South Korean government is paying for production.
Lockheed Martin is proposing the F-35 Lightning II for the next phase of another South Korean fighter program, the FX. Seoul bought 60 Boeing F-15 Eagles under Phases 1 and 2. The F-35 would be the obvious aircraft for the country to buy should the KFX program be canceled.
The KFX program has entered the feasibility-study phase, a hurdle it is highly likely to clear, since the study is being done by a government institute with help from the Agency for Defense Development, a project proponent.
“By 2030, the mainstay of the South Korean air force will be KFXs, F-15Ks, FA-50s and unmanned combat air vehicles,” says Lee, indicating the KFX will replace 130 F-16s license-built by Korea Aerospace up to 2004. It was previously unclear what aircraft the KFX would replace. The air force plans to establish the KFX program office in 2009.