Samsung and Lockheed Martin are hoping to launch full-scale development of the KTX-II advanced-trainer/light-combat aircraft by early November, provided that the programme receives final US Congressional blessing.

The South Korean Government is awaiting a US export licence to be granted before proceeding with the project. The licence is needed to clear the transfer of US technology to South Korea and provide for future sales of the KTX-11 to approved third countries.

The Joint US Military Assistance office in South Korea's capital, Seoul, says that the approval process has been initiated, but the licence is still with the US Department of State and has not yet been submitted to Congress for 30 days of formal notification. US officials do not anticipate any delays, although South Korea has despatched a senior official to Washington to seek assurances that the project will be approved.

KTX-II prime contractor Samsung has already signed workshare and technical-assistance agreements with Lockheed Martin, giving the US company a 13% stake in the project. It is understood that the US manufacturer's actual investment in the programme will be partially offset by South Korean payments for the transfer of key technology.

Lockheed Martin will take responsibility for developing the wing, avionics and flight-control systems. The agreement covers supplying wing shipsets for the first four prototypes, as well as performing static and fatigue tests. An advance team has already been sent to Samsung's Sachon plant, and others will arrive by year-end.

Samsung has also reached workshare agreements with Daewoo Heavy Industries and the Aerospace Division of Korean Air (KAL), modelled on the South Korean licence-production Lockheed Martin F-16 programme.

Daewoo's Changwon factory will supply the KTX-II's mid-fuselage section, while KAL's nearby Pusan plant will manufacturer the aft fuselage and tail.

Production of the nose and overall final assembly will be the responsibility of Samsung. Minor pylon work has been set aside for Hyundai, but the company has not yet agreed to join the programme.

Samsung will also assemble the KTX-II's yet-to-be selected powerplant, with up to 40% of the engine to be locally built. A final selection of the General Electric F404-402 or rival Snecma M88-2 is now due this month.

The first KTX-II prototype is planned to be flown in 2001, with the first of 95 production aircraft tentatively scheduled for delivery to the South Korean air force in 2005. A final decision on production will be taken in 2003.

Source: Flight International