FARNBOROUGH: South Korea signs MoU with Indonesia to develop KF-X

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South Korea is seeking international partners for its indigenous KF-X programme, which aims to develop a successor to its Northrop F-5s by early next decade.

Seoul signed a signed a memorandum of understanding with Indonesia last week on the KF-X, a move that could lead to Jakarta contributing up to 20% of the development costs. It has also begun negotiations with Turkey, although a deal is further out.

South Korea has a close relationship with both countries and has sold military aircraft to them. It has also bought CN-235s from Indonesian Aerospace.

Government officials from South Korea were also engaging industry at Farnborough, hoping to bring in Western companies as possible partners in the programme.

Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the Eurofighter consortium were involved in initial discussions and could become a development partner, say sources from the various companies. This could be similar to Lockheed's involvement in the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 advanced jet trainer programme.

KAI is also expected to produce the KF-X fighter at its facilities in Sacheon, and help in the development using its experience with the T-50 and its F/A-50 fighter variant.

The KF-X programme, which was mooted several years ago, envisages the production of around 120 fighters for the South Korean air force. However, the potential cost of around $8 billion has meant that successive South Korean governments have balked at giving it the go-ahead. With other countries joining the programme, it would substantially reduce the cost for Seoul.

For Indonesia, the deal would help revive its moribund military aircraft production industry. It would offer it access to a reasonably advanced fighter programme, and industry sources say that local assembly is a possibility.

The first few prototypes of the KF-X aircraft are expected to be rolled out around 2020, say sources.