In return for obtaining 40 Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters, South Korea will receive technologies related to its long-planned KFX indigenous fighter programme.
Following Lockheed’s announcement on 24 September that Seoul was on the verge of signing an order for 40 F-35s, state news agencyYonhapquoted a spokesman from South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) as saying that the F-35 technologies will play a key role in KFX.
Under the F-35 deal – which will cover deliveries to run between 2018 and 2021 – Lockheed will transfer key fighter technologies from “17 sectors”, he says.
The DAPA spokesman adds that Seoul will build 120 KFX aircraft for deployment from 2025. South Korean officials indicate the fighter will be a twin-engined design that is more capable than advanced versions of the Lockheed F-16, but less capable than leading Western fighters such as the F-35.
Technology transfer was a major consideration in Seoul’s pursuit of a replacement for its McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms and Northrop F-5s under its F-X III requirement, which was ultimately won by the F-35.
Industry sources say Lockheed, Boeing and Eurofighter all offered attractive technology transfer packages during the contest. Boeing offered an upgraded version of its F-15E, dubbed the Silent Eagle, while Eurofighter offered the Typhoon.
At last year’s Seoul lnternational Aerospace & Defense Exhibition, Korea Aerospace Industries, which will likely build the new jet, displayed two models of the KFX, both of which bore low-observable characteristics reminiscent of the F-35.
The aircraft will be developed with help from Indonesia, which is a 20% partner in the programme.
The F-X III requirement was originally for 60 aircraft, but Seoul pared this back to 40, apparently for pricing concerns. It is believed Seoul will eventually buy another 20 F-35s to meet its initial requirement.