The first prototype of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-X fighter is coming together in the company’s Sacheon factory, amid reports of an imminent roll out.
According to media reports in South Korea, the first example will be rolled out in April. Production is also under way on additional prototypes.
The KF-X appears to be keeping to original plans, which called for an April 2021 roll-out and a first flight in 2022.
Images attributable to local defence news outlet K-Force – and posted on Facebook – were apparently taken during a recent visit to KAI’s Sacheon factory by local media.
The aircraft is making significant progress, with the two GE Aviation F414 engines installed as well as the aircraft’s radome. Some installation work still needs to take place in the aircraft’s forward avionics bays and other areas.
It is not clear if the aircraft’s locally developed active electronically scanned array radar has been installed.
While the roll-out of the KF-X will be a major milestone in Seoul’s quest to become an aerospace power, concerns about the commitment of partner Indonesia persist.
For some years Jakarta has been uncomfortable picking up 20% of the programme’s W8.8 trillion ($7.9 billion) price tag. It is understood that Jakarta is far behind on payments and seeks to change the terms.
Overall, Seoul will take 120 examples of the KF-X, while Jakarta is supposed to take 48.
Recently, Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration felt compelled to reiterate that Jakarta is still committed to the aircraft. This came after media reports suggesting that Jakarta was considering the acquisition of 36 Dassault Rafales and eight Boeing F-15EXs.