Hanwha Aerospace has broken ground on a new facility to licence-build the GE Aerospace F414 engine for the Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 fighter.

The company is investing about $30 million in the 16,530sq m (178,000sq ft) facility at Changon, it says.

KF-21 prototype 2 Aoa Tests

Source: Defense Acquisition Program Administration

The KF-21 is powered by two F414s

The ground-breaking coincided with the company’s hitting a production milestone – manufacturing its 10,000th aircraft engine, an F404 that will power a T-50/FA-50-family jet. The company produced its first engine under licence in 1978, a J79 for the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom.

In a congratulatory message, defence minister Shin Wok-Shik noted the importance of aircraft engine development, and hinted at a future fighter programme beyond the fourth-generation KF-21.

“Production of the 10,000th engine is a historic milestone proving South Korea’s advanced engine technologies, and most of all, the aeroengine is one of the most important strategic assets for national defence,” says Shin.

“I expect Hanwha Aerospace’s know-how and experience of engine production accrued over the past 45 years will be a stepping-stone for the country’s indigenous development of a sixth-generation fighter jet in the future, as well as the home-grown aircraft engine development.”

In addition, Hanwha has plans to develop an engine with a thrust of 15,000lb (66.8kN) that will power Block III examples of the KF-21.

In December 2023, Seoul’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration announced that the country will develop a new 15,000lb thrust engine that will enter service in the second half of the 2030s.

“Hanwha Aerospace is fully committed to investing in the research and development of indigenous, advanced aero engines, instead of relying on foreign technology, to contribute to the growth of South Korea’s aerospace industry, and enhancing the national security posture as well,” says Hanwha Aerospace president and chief executive Jaeil Son.