South Korea’s $6.7B Indigenous Fighter Jet Program At Risk, Says Report

KF-X Fighter
The South Korean president’s office said Seoul is “reviewing the facts” on the KF-X project, an indigenous fighter jet program estimated to have cost Seoul $6.7 billion. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea Air Force

SEOUL, Sept. 24 (UPI) — South Korea’s indigenous fighter jet program is not ready for takeoff, because a dispute over the sharing of core U.S. technology is posing problems for the $6.7-billion project.

Seoul’s presidential Blue House said on Friday local time it is investigating recent reports of technology transfer issues between South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration and U.S. contractor Lockheed Martin, News 1 reported.

The Korean Fighter Experimental project is South Korea’s plan to replace 120 older planes with new aircraft developed through one of the country’s biggest defense projects.

Yonhap reported the replacements would begin in 2025 and DAPA had forged a deal with Lockheed Martin to purchase 40 F-35A combat planes and secure 25 types of technology. On Tuesday, however, the South Korean agency said the United States had barred the U.S. contractor from sharing some of the technologies that include an active electronically scanned array and a radio frequency jammer.

The South Korean president’s office said Seoul is “reviewing the facts” on the KF-X project. In a separate statement, a South Korean defense official told Yonhap DAPA had received a notice from the Blue House requesting the submission of documents on the KF-X project, but spokesman Min Kyung-wook said no request was sent to the defense agency.

Earlier this year Lockheed Martin said it was seeking U.S. government approval on the technology transfer, but in April Washington refused to issue an export license for the technologies, leaving Seoul to look for other contractors and placing the KF-X project at risk for delayed development.

South Korean analysts are divided over the prospects of the KF-X project. Choi Jong-kun, a professor of politics at Yonsei University, said that without the technology transfer the project would be delayed, but Air Force chief Jeong Kyeong-doo said on Tuesday there would be “no problem” in KF-X development, even without the U.S. transfer.


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