Despite troubles at home, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is as committed as ever to international sales, and expects an order for up to 12 FA-50s in the first half of 2018.
Sang Choi, vice-president and general manager of KAI’s international marketing division, says that while international customers have asked the company about its domestic travails, they have not expressed deep concerns about KAI. Choi spoke to FlightGlobal at the company’s chalet at the Seoul ADEX defence show.
Nonetheless, recent allegations of corruption and malfeasance at the company’s headquarters have had an impact.
“There has been a lot of impact,” says Sang. “It’s not just the customers, but also our competitors. The question is, what is the current situation? How is KAI going to recover?”
Choi says that while the situation is "unfortunate," he is confident that KAI will emerge as a more effective, efficient company, better able to deal with both its domestic and international customers.
“Every crisis has two phases: the crisis itself, but there is also an opportunity for us to jump up.”
KAI’s troubles started in July, when state prosecutors raided its offices and those of key suppliers, on allegations of corruption and profiteering. Another raid followed this. In September, the company’s former chief executive, Ha Seong-yang, was arrested.
A new chief executive, Kim Jo Won from the country’s audit bureau, will soon be installed.
The crisis of the last few months has prompted KAI to curtail its international marketing efforts in recent months.
At the Paris Air Show in June, Choi told FlightGlobal that KAI’s FA-50 light fighter was involved in four competitions in two markets. Of these, two were particularly promising: one in Africa, one South America, for a total of 24 aircraft.
Choi says these deals have been pushed back, but a deal is possible in the first half of 2018. He declines to discuss specifics, but the African prospect is believed to be Botswana, the South American prospect Argentina.
Another project KAI’s troubles at home have affected is the integration of the Northrop Grumman Litening targeting pod on the FA-50. This will allow the jet to use laser guided weapons. Choi says this integration will still happen, but is only likely in 2018.
Choi adds that the issues affecting KAI at home are not “day-to-day” in nature, and had no impact on its sustainment of T-50 family aircraft already sold to countries such as the Philippines and Indonesia.