Seoul is likely to make a decision about the powerplant for its planned KFX indigenous fighter aircraft in the first half of 2016.
The two engines in contention for the requirement are the General Electric F414 and the Eurojet EJ200. Both engine makers had a significant presence at this year’s Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition.
Industry observers familiar with KFX say that the engine down select will occur in the first half of next year irrespective of the controversy surrounding Seoul’s failure to obtain US export licences for four technologies deemed “core” to the development of KFX: active electronically scanned array radar, infrared search & track sensors (IRST), electro-optical targeting technology, and jamming technology.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) issued the request for proposals (RFP) for the engine several weeks ago, and responses are due in November. KAI will examine the proposals, and South Korean officials’ analysis will include site visits the two rivals’ production facilities in Europe and the USA.
The winner stands to sell around 400 engines. Seoul plans to obtain 120 twin-engined KFX fighters, while Indonesia, a 20% partner in the programme, plans to obtain 80. South Korea eventually hopes to export the countries to other countries.
Eurojet had a large stand at the show with a full-sized mock-up of the EJ200, which powers the Eurofighter Typhoon. Eurojet chief executive Clemens Linden lists a long list of attributes for his company’s powerplant including modularity, a development roadmap, and technology transfer. Eurojet also highlighted maintainability, durability, and reliability.
The European firm also highlighted the experience of Eurojet consortium partner Rolls-Royce in South Korea, with over 400 engines serving in the country’s air force, navy, and army.
General Electric vice president for the F404, F414, J85, and TF34 programmes Alan DiLibero highlighted GE’s 35 year history of working with South Korean fighters. He also discussed GE’s long experience producing engines under licence with Samsung Techwin, which was recently acquired by Hanwha Techwin.
DiLibero also stressed the development roadmap for the F414, which powers the US Navy’s Boeing F/A-18 E/F Super Hornet, and GE’s successful work on a number of international programmes. GE’s international collaboration efforts have seen it involved with the Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas, which is powered by the F404, and the Saab Gripen, which powered by the RM12, a Swedish-produced version of the F414.
The F404 also powers all variants of KAI’s T-50 advanced jet trainer. DeLibero pointed out that GE recently won a supplier recognition award from KAI.
"We know how to do the integration, and I think the T-50 programme is a great example of our ability to execute, and our commitment,” says DeLibero.