South Korea News

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Seoul Debates Best Strategy to Acquire AESA Radar

KFX radar (image : ilbo)

SEOUL, South Korea -- South Korean defense officials are in a quandary over how to acquire an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, a key component for the country's fighter development program code-named KF-X, following the US refusal to transfer the advanced radar technology.

South Korea had expected  to learn the AESA technology for the KF-X jet through offset deals connected to its F-X III contract to buy 40 Lockheed Martin-built F-35As.

South Korea seeks to develop a twin-engine KF-X fighter jet on par with the F-16 and produce 120 units starting in 2025 to replace its F-4 and F-5 fleets. The project is estimated to cost some US $16 billion.

But the US government refused to transfer four of the 25 fighter technologies South Korea wanted, citing the International Traffic in Arms Regulations. Those technologies concerned AESA, an electro-optical targeting pod, infrared search-and-rescue systems, and a radio frequency jammer.

During the Seoul International Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX), which ran from Oct. 20 to 25, European radar makers sought to woo South Koreans apparently disappointed by the US.

Saab new AESA radar (photo : SAAB)

Sweden's Saab offered to develop an AESA with South Korea.

"We've done the flight test with the backend system and antenna elements," said Tom Bratt, marketing executive of Saab Electronic Defence Systems. "We're ready to go to the next phase once we have a platform available. Then we can start to make all the proper integrations."

Bratt said Saab could complete the development of the AESA system with South Korea, as the Swedish company had been engaged in a joint study on the radar with the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), which is affiliated with South Korea's arms agency.

"Once we have a contract, it will take about two years to deliver the first system," he added.

Finmeccanica's Selex is pitching its Captor-E radar fitted for the Eurofighter Typhoon. The British and Italian aerospace group recommends Seoul adopt the Selex radar and subsequently localize it in phases.

"The bottom line is we'll try to meet the Korean demands as much as we can," a Selex official said on condition of anonymity.

"The best option right now is for Korea to produce the Captor-E radar under license first, and with Selex's tech transfer, Korea would be able to localize the AESA technology," he said.

Selex Captor-E AESA radar (photo : Finmeccanica)

Israel also has joined the radar competition, capitalizing on its previous works with South Korea.

Israel Aerospace Industries (IAI) supplied its EL/M-2032 pulse Doppler radar for the FA-50 jet, a light armed variant of the T-50 supersonic trainer aircraft. The company now is offering the EL/M-2052 airborne AESA fire control radar for the KF-X plane.

"We're willing and looking forward to cooperating with Korea," said Igal Karny, deputy director of Elta Systems' marketing and sales division. "The whole radar is our radar. We're exporting the radar according to our regulations," Karny said, apparently referring to Korea's wariness of AESA export control.

Unlike European and Israeli firms, US radar manufacturers were cautious when talking about AESA cooperation with Korea.

"I can only tell you that right now we don't have a license required for us to discuss KF-X radar cooperation," a Raytheon official said.

Northrop Grumman was a bit more active in participating in the KF-X effort, as it seeks to sell its scalable agile beam radar to Korea.

"We're very interested in it, and we're following the [KF-X] program actually," said Paul Kalafos, vice president of Northrop Grumman's electronics systems. "We have a long partnership with Korea, and we want to be here for a long time in the long-term view."

Northrop Grumman SABR AESA radar (photo : Northrop Grumman)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), which is in charge of KF-X integration, puts a priority first on reducing risk before locally developing an indigenous AESA system. KAI favors buying an AESA either from the US or other nations to develop a KF-X prototype.

"We favor a two-track approach toward acquiring AESA technology," a KAI spokesman said. "We can develop a KF-X jet equipped with either US or European AESA system over the next five years," he said. "In the meantime, the ADD and a foreign radar company could push for developing an indigenous AESA within 10 years at the earliest, so the next KF-X block models would be fitted with the locally developed radar."

The presidential office backs the two-track approach as a way of easing public anger over US rejection of tech transfer.

"I believe we can develop our own AESA and other key technologies within 10 years," National Security Adviser Kim Kwan-jin said in a National Assembly audit Oct. 23.

"We're seeking technical assistance from a foreign partner in order to manage or reduce risks of independent development of key systems," he said, adding the ADD has implemented research and development of AESA since 2006.

The ADD has been in contact with radar companies from the US, Europe and Israel to find ways of purchasing an AESA system and gaining technical cooperation, according to sources. A selected partner company is expected to work with LIG Nex1, a precision weapons maker, to develop an indigenous AESA.

Engine Contest

Competition is also heating up between US and European engine companies. Eurojet Turbo is offering its 4.5-generation EJ200 engine to power the KF-X, touting the product's exportability and growth potential.

IAI EL/M 2052 AESA radar (photo : IAI)

"We're delighted to offer the EJ200 engine for the KF-X program. This is the latest, proven engine," said Clemens Linden, CEO of Eurojet. "The engine has an easy maintenance concept with 15 modules that can be exchanged at the base without going back to the test house."

Linden stressed Eurojet would offer lenient technology transfer so Korea could export Eurojet-based engines to third nations free of US export control.

"When the KF-X program advances and grows, we can have joint development with the Korean industry to grow the engine further," the CEO said, adding that his company will help Korea learn engine integration skills.

General Electric is pitching its F414 engine, highlighting its long experience producing engines under license with the Korean industry.

GE stresses the development roadmap for the F-414, which powers the US Navy's Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and GE's succesful work on a number of international programs, including KAI's T-50, the Saab Gripen and the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas.

"KF-X is the largest ever military weapons development program in Korea's history, and it will require low-risk solutions in terms of cost, technology and life-cycle management," Al Dilibero, vice president of GE Aviation, said. "GE will bring the best and the most diverse fighter engine integration experience around the world to KF-X, which will lower overall risk of KF-X development."

KAI issued the request for proposals for the engine weeks ago and responses are due Nov. 4. The winner is scheduled to be announced by February and stands to sell about 400 engines.

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KF-X Project Gets Boost from Park

(Source: The Korea Times; issued Oct 27, 2015)

President Park Geun-hye asked the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Tuesday, to make efforts to push forward the country's KF-X project to develop indigenous fighter jets by 2025 as scheduled.

The comments from the President came amid growing concerns that a delay in the project could be unavoidable because the National Assembly may cut the relevant budget following the U.S. refusal to allow Lockheed Martin to transfer core technologies related to its F-35 stealth fighters to Korea.

She made the remarks when DAPA head Chang Myoung-jin visited Cheong Wa Dae to brief her about the procurement agency's measures to handle the crisis facing the project.

Chang was quoted as saying by lawmakers of the National Assembly Defense Committee, "After listening to my report, President Park asked me to do the best to push the KF-X as planned, because it is the nation's most important project."

According to officials, Chang told Park about DAPA's plans to push for domestic development of related technologies along with cooperation with foreign companies.

Chang attended the Defense Committee's subcommittee meeting hours after he visited Park.

The Defense Committee has been holding this meeting from Monday to examine the defense budget for next year, but the evaluation is being dragged out with lawmakers saying that they need more time to look into KF-X funding.

Rep. Kim Sung-chan of the ruling Saenuri Party said, "We decided to further examine the reliability and feasibility of the KF-X project."

Rep. Yoon Hu-duk of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) also said, "We need more time to decide whether to go with or reduce or increase the KF-X budget."

Lawmakers say the plenary session will possible be held on Thursday.

Observers say with the President expressing willingness to go forward with the project as scheduled, it would be difficult for the members of the ruling party to cut the KF-X budget.

The subcommittee is examining whether the 67 billion won submitted by the Ministry of Strategy and Finance is reasonable to be earmarked next year for the KF-X project.

The ministry and the DAPA were hoping the Assembly would increase the funding, as the money was already cut in September by the finance ministry from the 161.8 billion won that the DAPA initially requested.

But concerns grew that there would be a cut again in the 67 billion won after the U.S.'s refusal, which dealt a serious setback to the KF-X, weakening the feasibility of the 8.5 trillion won project.

Defense ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said it would be improper to delay a national project because a few technologies are currently unsatisfactory.

"We are hoping that the necessary budget will be approved so that the project can go forward," he told reporters in a regular briefing. "The KF-X is a very important project for the Air Force and for the development of the aviation industry. It should be completed."

In April, the U.S. government refused to allow the transfer of four technologies ― the active electronically scanned array radar, infrared search and tracking, an electronic optics targeting pod and an RF jammer.

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Eki 31, 2015, 06:32 ÖS Last Edit: Eki 31, 2015, 06:38 ÖS by turkdefence
Parliamentary subcommittee passes KF-X budget for 2016.

2015/10/29 A parliamentary subcommittee on Thursday approved a 67-billion-won (US$58.5 million) budget for a controversial fighter jet development program, said a ruling-party lawmaker.

The National Assembly's defense subcommittee passed the 2016 budget for the Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) development project after hearing a briefing from the Korea Institute for S&T Evaluation and Planning (KISTEP), said Rep. Kim Sung-chan of the ruling Saenuri Party.

The budget is subject to further approval from the defense committee's general meeting and the National Assembly's general meeting.

The KF-X program is an 18-trillion-won project that seeks to produce 120 combat jets by 2025, but it has been under fire after the United States' decision in April not to transfer key fighter jet technologies to South Korea was revealed last month.

The U.S. State Department refused to approve the transfer on four out of the 25 technologies, citing International Traffic in Arms Regulations.

Controversies surfaced over whether the country can develop the four core technologies -- an active electronically scanned array radar, infrared search and track, electronics optics targeting pod and radio frequency jammer -- by itself.

"After discussing with lawmakers on the subcommittee, we have decided to have faith in the government that the technologies can be developed domestically," Rep. Kim said.

The National Assembly's defense committee will hold its general meeting Friday to further discuss the issue.


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Kas 02, 2015, 11:25 ÖS Last Edit: Kas 03, 2015, 10:03 ÖÖ by turkdefence
Indonesian Parliament Approves Initial Budget for KF-X

31 Oktober 2015: The Indonesian parliament has approved a first batch of funds totaling some 89 billion won to be invested in jointly developing a new South Korean fighter jet.

An official at the South Korean embassy in Jakarta said Saturday that the Indonesian parliament approved the funds for the project, dubbed the KF-X.

Following the latest budget approval, the two governments and the participating aerospace companies, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and PT Dirgantara Indonesia will begin negotiations to sign a project deal in early November in Jakarta.

Indonesia plans to cover one-point-seven trillion won or some 20 percent of the KF-X development cost.

With the first batch of funds green-lighted, Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) believes Indonesia will approve the remaining budget in phases as well.

Under a basic agreement on the KF-X joint development signed last year, Indonesia will receive one trial fighter jet and design-related information. Its engineers will also take part in the project.(1)

KF-X to Include Stealth Technology

The Agency for Defense Development has officially said that stealth technology is involved in South Korea's domestic fighter jet project, dubbed the KF-X.

Agency President Chung Hong-yong made the remark at a plenary meeting of the National Assembly Defense Committee on Friday.

Asked about how advanced South Korea's stealth technology is, Chung said he could not publicly disclose details but that stealth technology will go into the fighter jet.

He also said the United States rejected Seoul's request for a stealth technology transfer for the KF-X project, but South Korea has been developing the technology on its own since 1997.

Chung said South Korea's stealth technology is considerably advanced in terms of design and materials, adding that discussions are under way on whether to apply what has already been developed. (2)

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Ara 08, 2015, 11:19 ÖS Last Edit: Ara 08, 2015, 11:27 ÖS by turkdefence
First Prototype of KFX will be Produce by 2019

07 Desember 2015

KFX fighter (photo. image : Namu)

S. Korea, RI aerospace firms sign KFX cooperation deal

South Korea and Indonesia are set to elevate their strategic partnership by signing a strategic cooperation agreement on the joint development and production of KFX/IFX jet fighters.

The agreement was signed on Friday by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. president and CEO Ha Sung-yong and his counterpart PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PT DI) president director Budi Santoso.

Witnessed by Indonesian Defense Minister Ryamizard Ryacudu and South Korean Ambassador to Jakarta Cho Tai-young at the Defense Ministry, the agreement represents the second phase of the KFX/IFX program, the Engineering and Manufacturing Development (EMD) phase.

Ryamizard said that aircraft technology was not a simple process but was something that needed support and commitment from all parties including the sharing of expertise, knowledge and technology.

"The agreement is a strategic early step for bot defense industries, especially PT DI, to develop production and technology capabilities, especially jet fighters," he said, expecting the jet fighter to become Indonesia's leading product.

Ryamizard revealed that the agreement would lead to production, maintenance or sustenance, modification and upgrade of the jet fighter.

Meanwhile, Cho said South Korea wanted to demonstrate that both countries were strategic partners.

He said the there were more than 2,000 Korean companies operating in Indonesia and that defense cooperation was also significant.

"We have bought from and sold to Indonesia a number of weapon systems," he said.

"We want to upgrade the relations into a collaboration, such as KFX/IFX."

South Korea has sold a squadron of T/A-50 advanced jet trainers and three submarines to Indonesia while buying transport and maritime patrol CN-235 aircraft from Indonesia.

KFX Technology

"Jet fighter cooperation is not easy because it needs sophisticated technology," Cho said. "South Korea is the right partner, one which can contribute to not only a jet fighter program, but also submarines."

After the signing ceremony, Ha said that the program would use original South Korean technologies and would not affected by the US refusal to provide his country with four critical technologies, namely active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track system (IRST), electronic optics targeting pod and radio frequency jammer.

Budi said the US' refusal would not hinder the US$7.8-billion joint program as there were other suppliers of such technologies.

He said that the first prototype would be produced by 2019 and that the fifth prototype would be produced at PT DI's facility in Bandung.

"The jet fighter is expected to be operational in 2024 or 2025," he said.

"PT DI will send a contingent of some 200 engineers to South Korea for the production preparation stage."

Three Minor Differences between KFX and IFX

He added that there would be minor differences between the KFX and IFX.

"The IFX will have a greater range as required by the Indonesian Air Force ," he said.

"For air refueling, the IFX will use a probe system while the KFX will use a boom system.

"The third difference will be the data link. South Korea will use the US-made Link 16 and probably develop their own while we will also develop our own."

Budi said Indonesia needed its own data link to allow communications with the Russian-made Sukhoi Su-27/30 Flankers heavy jet fighters.

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Restart KF-X Project from Square One

An F-35 stealth fighter flies over the area of Luke Air Force Base in Arizona on Oct. 10, 2014. Korea signed a deal to purchase 40 F-35s in September last year but is now facing calls from some politicians and critics to cancel the deal due to uncertainties over the technology transfer from Washington that is causing a serious setback to Seoul's own fighter jet development project. / Courtesy of Lockheed Martin

(Source: Korea Times; published Dec 07, 2015) / By Jun Ji-hye

The government is facing growing calls to restart its problematic fighter jet development program from square one ― and cancel a deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase F-35 stealth fighters, if necessary.

Some politicians and critics say it seems almost impossible for the nation to develop its own fighter jet by the designated year of 2025 due to growing uncertainties over technology transfers from Washington.

"It is not an easy decision to cancel the F-35 deal, but the idea is well worth considering if it is hard for Korea to acquire the U.S. technology through the deal," said Rep. Kim Kwang-jin of the main opposition New Politics Alliance for Democracy (NPAD) to The Korea Times.

Kim noted that the government appeared to have already considered cancelation, citing that the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has estimated expenses that the nation must pay as a cancellation charge if the F-35 deal is canceled.

During a session of the National Assembly Defense Committee on Nov. 25, a DAPA official told lawmakers that the cost of cancelation would be an estimated $1.2 billion.

"It would take about two years to calculate the exact amount," the official said. "There is a possibility that the amount could go down from the estimate after a detailed examination."

The state-run procurement agency noted that it has also considered reducing the number of F-35s to be purchased from 40 to 20.

"In this case, the total cost is expected to go down by one third," said the official.

The transfer of 25 technologies was included in an offset deal with Lockheed Martin in return for Korea's purchase of 40 F-35s at 7.3 trillion won ($6.33 billion), signed in September last year, as the Air Force's next-generation fighter.

But what has happened this year indicates the unlikelihood of the transfer of some important technologies.

In April, the U.S. government refused to allow Lockheed to hand over four core technologies, including its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, to Korea for security reasons.

Speculation is now being raised that Washington is negative about transferring some others among the remaining 21 technologies to Korea. Officials from DAPA and the Ministry of Foreign Affairs have been conducting negotiations with the U.S. defense giant company and the U.S. State Department.

Rep. Chung Doo-un of the ruling Saenuri Party, who chairs the National Assembly Defense Committee, claimed that the nation is experiencing difficulties in acquiring the U.S. technologies as Washington does not want Korea to be capable of developing its own fighter jets.

The lawmaker said Washington is mindful that Seoul might become a potential future competitor of Washington in the fighter jet export market.

"One of the reasons why the KF-X project is facing difficulties is that the U.S. is not too happy about Korea developing its own fighter jets," he said. "The U.S. is concerned about the possible decline of its fighter jet exports, which would also reduce the level of dependence of its allies on Washington."

Some defense experts note that Indonesia's participation in the KF-X project also complicates the technology transfer from Washington. The U.S. shares few technologies with the Southeast Asian country because of its close defense ties with Russia.

They say Jakarta is the no. 1 importer of Russian weapons, and Washington is concerned about a possible leakage of the core technologies in high-tech fighter jets.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), KF-X's preferred bidder, signed tentative deals at the end of last month, under which Indonesia will pay 20 percent of the costs and participate in the design process and component production, as well as acquiring one prototype and technology data afterward.

Critics now question why Korea should maintain the contract with the U.S. side and risk its possible refusal to transfer core parts of the F-35 technology, which would be a serious setback to the nation's 8.5 trillion won KF-X project.

The program is aimed at building fighter jets to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s. If any setbacks occur to the program, it could lead to an airpower vacuum in the mid-2020s.

Rep. Kim of the NPAD said the government intended to receive technologies worth about 2 trillion won through the offset deal in the 7.3 trillion won contract to purchase 40 F-35 stealth fighters. "If the transfer of technologies is not realized, the government should consider a variety of options to make up for the loss, including changing the model of the nation's next-generation fighters after canceling the F-35s," the lawmaker said.

Those who call for cancelation of the nation's purchase of F-35s cite Canada's example.

In October, Canada's new Liberal Party government announced its decision to cancel the country's planned 65-plane purchase, becoming the first partner among nine countries to withdraw from the Pentagon's F-35 joint strike fighter program.

Canada's move to drop the F-35s came as then-Prime Minister Stephen Harper of the Conservative Party was accused in 2012 of having lied about the true cost of operating the stealth fighters.

According to Defense News, an American military news website, many Canadian companies have spent years building components for the new plane and stand to lose as much as $8.3 billion in work over the life of the jet.

But Justin Trudeau, the new Prime Minister elected in the Oct. 19 election, argued that an open competition for Canada's fighter jet replacement would more than make up for the loss of the F-35 business, according to DefenseNews.

Trudeau vowed to move quickly on replacing Ottawa's aging CF-18s with another plane through a competition after pulling out of the F-35 program.

Kim Jong-dae, who is in charge of defense reform planning in the Justice Party, said, "Countries such as Canada, Turkey, the Netherlands and Norway have dropped their F-35 purchase deals or moved to reduce the number of stealth fighters to be purchased."

Kim added that this is leading to an increase in the price of the jets.

Park Seok-jin, an activist dedicated to improving the nation's military, argued that there was a problem from the beginning in the government's process to select F-35s over Boeing's F15-SEs, citing the Defense Acquisition Program Executive Committee's decision to go with Lockheed after rejecting the F-15SEs, first recommended by DAPA, in September 2013.

At the time, DAPA officials noted that the decision to reject the F-15SE was unexpected as Boeing was more positive in handing over core technologies.

"The purchase of F-35s and the nation's KF-X project was a case of fraud," he said in his recent column. "I urged the government to reexamine them from square one."

For his part, DAPA spokesman Col. Kim Si-cheol said there is nothing he can confirm as of now regarding the ongoing negotiation with the U.S. side due to the sensitivity of the government-to-government issue.

"There have been some regrettable issues regarding the KF-X project including the delayed negotiation with Lockheed Martin," he said. "We are continuing to seek the transfer of technologies we want."

The U.S. State Department said last week that it would provide maximum support for Korea's fighter jet development project, dismissing speculation that the department was negative about approving the transfer of some technologies.

"The United States continues to support the Republic of Korea's defense programs and priorities through the transfer of many of our most sensitive defense technologies," said State Department spokeswoman Katina Adams.

"We seek to support the KF-X indigenous fighter program to the maximum extent possible," she said. "The U.S. government is in discussions with Lockheed Martin to address ROK areas of concern. We will continue to work closely with Lockheed Martin throughout this process to ensure continued support to the KF-X program."

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Designed for the training of pilots for 5th Generation fighter aircraft, KAI's T-X is equipped with modern cockpit comprising large area display (LAD), embedded avionics and training systems, as well as aerial refueling capability.

Sacheon, South Korea: Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) unveiled yesterday the improved version of its T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer, the model that KAI and Lockheed Martin are proposing as the successor of the US Air Force' T-38 trainer, also known as T-X program. The T-X program, due for selection by late 2017 is expected to be one of the largest trainer acquisition worldwide. The US Air Force plans to acquire 350 advanced trainers, to replace the +50 year old T-38 Talon in service.

Designed for the training of pilots for 5th Generation fighter aircraft, KAI's T-X is equipped with modern cockpit comprising large area display (LAD), embedded avionics and training systems, as well as aerial refueling capability. The aircraft is configured with large dorsal 'hump' providing ample cooled space for additional avionic systems and antennae.

The new variant is currently designated as a flight demonstrator, due to begin flight-testing in Korea next year, to be followed by flight demonstrations in the USA by 2017. The original T-50, along with its variants, was developed via technology transfer from Lockheed Martin with offsets related to South Korea's large F-16 fleet.

K-50 T-X was developed by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) with assistance from Lockheed Martin.

Park Says Exports of Jet Trainers to U.S. to Strengthen Alliance

President Park Geun-hye speaks during a ceremony at the Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) in Sacheon, 437 kilometers south of Seoul, to unveil the T-X trainer for export to the United States. (Yonhap photo)

SEOUL --- President Park Geun-hye said Thursday that South Korea's possible exports of jet trainers to the U.S. could strengthen the bilateral alliance and help Seoul sell them to other countries.

South Korea has improved the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer to attempt exporting new jet trainers to the U.S. The T-50 was co-developed by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) and U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin.

Park said possible exports of T-X trainers to the U.S. will make a big contribution to South Korea's aviation industry and its economy

"The exports could become a catalyst in further strengthening the South Korea-U.S. alliance," Park said in a ceremony rolling out the first T-X jet trainer at the headquarters of KAI, the country's sole aircraft maker, in the southern city of Sacheon.

She also said the possible exports to the U.S. could also pave the way for South Korea to sell the jet trainers to other countries.

The FA-50 fighters, a light attack variant of the T-50, are currently in service with the South Korean Air Force.

Last month, KAI made the first delivery of the two FA-50PHs, multi-mission jets, to the Philippines as part of a US$420 million government-to-government deal inked between Seoul and Manila, which calls for the export of 12 aircraft.

KAI has so far received 133 plane orders from Indonesia, Turkey, Peru, Iraq and Thailand for both the T-50 series jets and the KT-1 tandem, prop-driven basic trainers. These orders are worth some $3.3 billion.

The company said it is negotiating with Peru and Botswana to sell them T-50 jets, as well as seeking new customers in Europe, Asia, Africa and Latin America for the KT-1.

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South Korea's arms procurement agency inked Monday its formal agreement with the country's sole aircraft maker, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), to undertake an ambitious project to build indigenous fighter jets.
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KFX/IFX: South Korea and Indonesia's Stealth Fighter

A model of the KAI KFX. Photo credit: IHS Jane's

A look at the background and future prospects of this interesting joint program

11 January 2016 By Bilal Khan

On 28 December 2015 South Korea's Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed a $7.4 billion U.S contract with Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) to initiate the development of the KFX (Korean Fighter Experimental), the South Korean Air Force's (ROKAF)'s next-generation fighter (IHS Jane's 360). As recently as last week on 08 January, Indonesian Aerospace (PTDI) signed onto the KFX as a partner (sharing 20% of the development costs) (Flight Global).

Destined to one day begin replacing the ROKAF's F-16s, the KFX (and IFX in terms of Indonesia) could have a real opportunity at replacing many of the world's F-16s in the late 2020s and early 2030s. Granted, it would be disingenuous to pass a judgment this early, but as it stands today, there do not seem to be any viable post-F-16 options outside of the F-35 and FC-31. Moreover, for countries predisposed to Western technology, but lacking in the political and/or financial currency to access the F-35, the KFX/IFX may very well be one of the leading options.


In the late 2000s and early 2010s, South Korea began to seriously push the idea of an indigenous next-generation fighter into the developmental stage. Defense Industry Daily has a very good timeline of events outlining the stages of the conceptualization phase, but the short of it is that there was a key revision on the part of ROKAF whereby cost feasibility was given preference over absolute performance. While intermittently framed as a '4.5 generation semi-stealth fighter,' the decision to ultimately play it relatively safe (in as far as developing an entirely new fighter aircraft for the future) may prove to be the right one in the end. Granted, this is not going to be a "cheap" fighter by any measure, but 'affordable' relative to the advances and benefits it brings to the table is well within the realm of possibility.

In Summer 2011 Indonesia signalled its willingness to join the program, and in Fall 2011, the KFX was conceptualized as a medium-weight twin-engine fighter that is "more agile than a Lockheed Martin F-16″, and paired with "an advanced sensor suite and fusion software on a part with … [the] new-generation F-35" (Flight Global). In specific terms, the KFX was envisaged to use HOTAS [hands-on-throttle-and-stick] HMD/S [helmet-mounted display and sight] with mounts for night vision (Flight Global). Moreover, South Korea announced that it would develop a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface munitions for the fighter (Flight Global). The KFX would also require foreign sourced turbofan engines (likely GE414, but possibly EJ200 from Europe); some key elements of the sensor suite would also be imported (Flight Global).

On March 2015 the KFX contract was awarded to a joint-bid made by KAI and Lockheed Martin (IHS Jane's 360), who supported KAI in the development of the T-50 and FA-50. However, in Fall 2015, the U.S refused to transfer 4 of the 25 technology elements South Korea requested in support of the KFX (IHS Jane's 360). This obstacle prompted South Korea's DAPA to greenlight the development (or alternative acquisition) of the requisite technology needed to source the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, electro-optical/infrared (EO/IR), infrared search and track (IRST) and electronic warfare (specifically digital radio frequency memory or DRFM) (Defense Industry Daily).

Market Potential

In December 2015, development had formally commenced; it is expected that its development will conclude in 2026, with initial deliveries set for 2028 (IHS Jane's 360). South Korea and Indonesia's requirements (120 and 80 aircraft, respectively) aside, the potential customer base for this fighter would likely still need be on good terms with the U.S, especially since a key proportion of the technology used will be American. Current users of modern American equipment outside of the F-35 program (or uninterested in it) would be the ideal candidates, though it would be a case-by-case matter. For example, exportability to Morocco would probably be much easier than Pakistan (considering the latter's complex relationships with the U.S and China, each with their own issues in as far as arms vendors are concerned).

The inherent conservatism around the design and expectations of the KFX make the idea of a relatively attractive cost a real possibility. For example, the turbofan engines will likely be acquired off-the-shelf from General Electric or the EuroJet Turbo GmbH consortium. In other words, engine development is not something KAI or PTDI will have to concern themselves with, they can take a comparatively low-risk route and still emerge with a quality engine solution. The onboard sensor and electronics suites are less certain considering that they would be developed in South Korea, but in the case that cost or complexity is an issue, it should not be impossible for ROKAF and/or prospective export customers to acquire off-the-shelf solutions from firms such as Saab, Thales, Selex-Galileo or Elbit Systems. The less vertically integrated the solution and more open for customization, the better it will be for KAI and PTDI.

Fighter Potential

There is not much to say at this stage given that the aircraft is in development, but as a platform for the future, the design is credible. The KFX is a twin engine fighter with a low-observable design that will accommodate an internal weapons bay for a future iteration. Internally, the radar and onboard electronics suite will be up to par with current and emerging trends, e.g. AESA radars, IRST, HMD/S and DRFM-equipped EW kits. In the end, the KFX has considerable promise, but only time will tell how it lives up to them. The fighter's development is definitely worth following.

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Mar 01, 2016, 01:00 ÖS Last Edit: Mar 01, 2016, 01:09 ÖS by turkdefence
KAI to develop passenger plane

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has launched a project to develop passenger jets, a market that has long been dominated by Boeing and Airbus, sources said Wednesday.

"We are seeking to make a foray into the commercial airplane market through a joint project with an Indonesian defense firm," a KAI official told The Korea Times.

The move comes at a time when Boeing and Airbus face challenges from China, which recently unveiled a commercial airliner.

Beijing's state-owned Commercial Aircraft of China, or Comac, delivered its first of 30 ARJ21 passenger aircraft to Chengdu Airlines in late November.

Comac is also pushing to develop a larger jetliner, the C919, with targets efficiency levels comparable with those of the Airbus A320neo and Boeing 737 MAX, according to local media. A prototype of the 158-to-174 seater was unveiled in early November.

In order to join the race, KAI signed a Strategic Cooperation Agreement (SCA) with Indonesia's state-run PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI), Dec. 4, the company said.

Under the deal, the two companies will strengthen collaboration in the defense aviation industry, but also work toward making commercial airplanes.

The Indonesian company is already participating in Korea's domestic KF-X fighter jet development project.

PTDI has experience in developing its own 50-seater N-250 and the 100-seater N-2130 civil aircraft in the 1990s, while KAI has successfully developed military aircraft such as the T-50 supersonic trainer and the FA-50 light-combat aircraft.

PT DI N-250 (photo : Internet)

"It will be a win-win for both parties, as each can help the other in their respective areas of technological superiority," said the official.

He noted that the two companies plan to meet twice a year to discuss their cooperation in the development of a civilian jetliner and other aircraft including drones.

"The first meeting will take place within the first half of this year," he said.

He added that the feasibility study to figure out potential demand for civilian aircraft will also take place, saying, "Securing demand in the domestic markets of both Korea and Indonesia is our preliminary goal."

From 2008 to 2013, KAI developed the four-seat, low-wing, single-engine KC-100 Naraon that was marked as the nation's first passenger plane. The Naraon is expected to enter service this year.

KAI President and CEO Ha Sung-yong said last year that taking the commercialization of Naraon as an opportunity, KAI will make efforts to attain its ambition to develop and produce a 100-seater passenger plane.

The move apparently comes because sales of civilian aircraft account for almost 80 percent of the world aviation market, so there is a limit to focusing only on the defense aviation industry.

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Lockheed Martin To Offer Korean 'Golden Eagle' for USAF Advanced Future Trainer (T-X)

T-50A trainer delivers the fighter-like performance and capabilities needed to eliminate 5th Generation training gaps and inefficiencies. Photo: KAI/ Lockheed Martin

Lockheed Martin announced today that it will offer the T-50A in the U.S. Air Force's Advanced Pilot Training (APT) competition (also known as T-X). The T-50A was developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to replace the T-38 and train the next generation of pilots to fly 5th Generation aircraft.

If the Korean trainer will win the tender the T-50As will be assembled in Greenville, South Carolina, following the selection of Greenville Operations facility by Lockheed Martin as the preferred Final Assembly and Checkout (FACO) site for the T-50A. The US Air Force plans to acquire 350 advanced trainers, to replace the +50 year old T-38 Talon in service.

"The T-50A is production ready now. It is the only offering that meets all of the APT requirements and can deliver those capabilities on schedule," said Rob Weiss, executive vice president and general manager, Lockheed Martin Advanced Development Programs (Skunk Works). "We carefully studied a clean-sheet option for the [Advanced Pilot Training] competition and determined that it posed excessive risk to the APT cost and schedule requirements." Last month KAI unveiled the first of two T-50s built in an advanced configuration designed to compete for the US tender. The two production-standard T-50As will be flown to Greenville by the end of the 2016 to be used for flight evaluation by the Air Force, scheduled to commence in 2017.

The T-50A is the US designation reserved for the Korean T-50 Golden Eagle. The aircraft is equipped for inflight refueling, and the cockpit instrumentation included large-area display, similar to the F-35. Its avionics utilize open systems architecture, enabling the user sn organic sustainment and upgrading of the aircraft without independent of the Original manufacturer(OEM). 

These capabilities jwill enable the T-X to deliver the fighter-like performance and capabilities needed to eliminate 5th Generation training gaps and inefficiencies.

As part of the training package that will come with the T-50A Lockheed Martin will provide Ground-Based Training System (GBTS) that Lockheed Martin describes as 'an immersive, synchronized ground-based training platform'. "The agile T-50A GBTS applies lessons-learned from decades of training with leading-edge technologies to deliver a cost-effective advanced pilot training solution." the company said in a statement.

Four companies are competing on this opportunity - In addition to Lockheed Martin with KAI offering the T-50A, Northrop Grumman plans to submit a new aircraft based on a new-built and redesigned T-38; Boeing, teamed with SAAB will also offer a newly designed aircraft and Alenia Aermacchi plans to offer its M-346 as T-100 for the USAF. Alenia and Raytheon are expected to formally announce their teaming for the T-100 by February 22.

The 227-acre Greenville site selected by Lockheed Martin for the APT has 13 hangars, 1,200,000 square feet of covered space optimized for APT and 8,000 feet of runway. Greenville is also home to a highly-skilled, flexible workforce of Lockheed Martin aviation technicians, engineers, program managers and other experienced personnel.

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