The South Korean Government has signed a letter of offer and acceptance (LoA) with the USA covering the licensed manufacture of 20 more Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 52 fighters for the South Korean air force.

Tuck McAtee, Lockheed Martin international vice-president business development for North Asia, says the LoA was signed on 15 July and will be followed by a commercial contract "soon". Deliveries of the aircraft, which will be manufactured as the KF-16 by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) at its Sachon plant, are to begin within 36 months of contract signature.

The order has been pursued by KAI and the South Korean commerce ministry to keep production lines at Sachon busy, before a decision on the air force's new F-X frontline fighter and the start of series production of the KAI/Lockheed Martin T-50/A-50 Golden Eagle advanced trainer/light combat aircraft.

Lockheed Martin and KAI have signed a memorandum of agreement to form a joint venture company to market the T-50/A-50. McAtee says the company, to be founded in September, will be called T-50 International (TFIC).

The aircraft has passed its senior design review and its engineering management review. The critical design review will begin on 1 August. The first flight is due in mid-2002 and the first production aircraft will be completed in October 2005.

Source: Flight International