Indonesia confirms participation in South Korea KF-X programme

Singapore
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Indonesia has confirmed it will be a partner in Seoul's developmental KF-X programme, as it eyes boosting its nascent military aviation sector.

The secretary general of Indonesia's defence ministry, Erris Heriyanto, said Indonesia will bear 20% of development costs. His comments appeared on the website of Antara, Indonesia's ­official news agency.

Erris said development of the KF-X would take place in three stages: technological development over the next two years; engineering and manufacturing, and finally production. The two sides have agreed to produce 150-200 units, of which Indonesia would get 50. These would be sufficient to equip three combat squadrons, he said.

A potential price tag of around $8 billion for the programme has caused successive South Korean governments to balk at giving the project the go-ahead. The involvement of other countries could reduce costs for Seoul. The Indonesian announcement could prompt it to put its full weight behind the aircraft, with an official announcement about KF-X possible at the Seoul air show in October.

Jakarta's involvement with the KF-X programme was first announced in July 2010 at the Farnborough air show, with the signing of a memorandum of understanding between the two countries. At the Indo Defence show in November 2010, however, Enes Park, executive vice-president at Korea Aerospace Industries, said Indonesia's involvement was yet to be confirmed. He added that South Korea was in talks with other countries at the time.

Seoul has held discussions with Turkey about KF-X participation, but it is difficult to gauge Ankara's level of interest in the project. In December 2010 Ankara announced plans for a "Turkish-type fighter" that could be developed by Turkish Aerospace Industries. If developed, this would be available for service by 2023, and replace Turkey's McDonnell Douglas F-4s and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 30s.

An Indonesian industry source confirmed that the nation will send staff from government-owned airframer PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) and the Indonesian air force to South Korea to assist in the programme.

The source said Indonesia expects the KF-X to be ready by 2018. If it moves forward, Indonesian media reports said the southeast Asian nation could enjoy 20% of revenues from sales beyond Indonesia and South Korea.

Participation in the KF-X programme would be of great benefit to Indonesia's aerospace sector, which has limited experience with advanced combat aircraft.

Indonesia also recently signed up to acquire 16 KAI T/A-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers. The aircraft will be completed and tested in South Korea, before being broken down and shipped to Indonesia where PTDI will re-assemble them with KAI assistance.