Andrew Doyle/SINGAPORE

South Korea's Ministry of National Defence (MND) is delaying by at least two months the selection of a F-X next generation fighter, to allow more time to negotiate industrial offset.

An announcement was due by late July, but sources involved in the competition say a decision is now expected during, or just after, the Korea Aerospace and Defense Exhibition 2001 which takes place in Seoul from 21-27 October.

Competing for the 40 aircraft order, worth around $3.2 billion, are the Boeing F-15K, Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Sukhoi Su-35. Deliveries begin in 2004. Up to 120 aircraft could be required. MND has concluded a first round of talks with the four bidders but has failed to extract satisfactory industrial offset proposals, say Korean defence officials.

South Korean industry is pushing the MND to secure the best licensed production deal and significant technology transfer, while the Republic of Korea Air Force wants the aircraft best suited to its operational requirements. The sources say the air force is sceptical of the benefits of local assembly if this pushes up acquisition costs.

Bidders have been asked to provide pricing for South Korean production and the cheaper option of deliveries from existing lines.

The director of Eurofighter's South Korea office, Francisco Verge, says the country is being offered a "partnership" in the consortium which could offer it "many opportunities to get involved in the future development" of the aircraft. He adds that South Korea would also be provided with an instrumented production aircraft to assist with the integration of its preferred weapons.

Source: Flight International