The head of South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has mooted the possibility of dropping Indonesia from the joint Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 fighter programme.

In an interview with the Korea JoongAng Daily, DAPA chief Seok Jong-gun says that Jakarta’s continued participation could hinge on an investigation that Indonesian engineers allegedly stole sensitive programme data.


Source: Greg Waldron/FlightGlobal

Indonesia’s continued participation in the programme is unclear

“If the investigation results show that a significant technology leak has occurred, we would reconsider co-operating at all in joint development,” says Seok.

“We will continue coordinating which technologies will be transferred to Indonesia, but the actual technology will be transferred through consultation only after development is completed in 2026. Only a small portion of the technology has been transferred to date, and it is at a rudimentary level.”

The alleged data theft by Indonesian engineers working in South Korea first came to light in January. The incident resulted in a probe by South Korean counterintelligence, and a police investigation is under way. In February, reports suggested that the Indonesians allegedly responsible have been forbidden from leaving South Korea.

As uncertainty surrounds Indonesia’s involvement, work on the KF-21 continues apace. In May, the KF-21 conducted a live firing of the Diehl Defence IRIS-T air-to-air missile, following air-to-air refuelling tests carried out in March.

The interview touches on another sticking point between the two partners: Indonesia’s tardiness with payments. It suggests that DAPA has agreed to reduce Indonesia’s contribution to W600 billion from the roughly W1.6 trillion it originally agreed to pay in the W8.8 billion development programme.

In return for the reduced payments, however, Seok indicates that DAPA decided to lower the level of technology transfer.

“In the joint development with Indonesia, we promised a technology transfer and provision of prototypes in return for their contribution, but Indonesia is in a tough financial spot, so they will only pay [W600 billion] and receive less,” he says.

Given Indonesia’s payment status, South Korea has also not stuck with the previous plan to transfer one of the six KF-21 prototypes to the Southeast Asian nation. Seok indicates that gives South Korea some leverage over payments.

“For us, it is more important to properly complete the system development of the KF-21 by 2026, which is the scheduled timeline.”

FlightGlobal understands that Indonesia has been generally unhappy with the level of technology transfer so far.

Despite the challenges the two partners have faced, Seok points out that Indonesia remains an important market in the heart of Southeast Asia, with commitments to buy 48 KF-21s – designated the ‘IFX’ in Indonesia.

Nonetheless, one area of potential concern for South Korea is Jakarta’s commitment to other fighters, specifically firm orders for 48 Dassault Rafales, as well as a potential deal to obtain 24 Boeing F-15EXs.