09 September 2010

Turkey Could Join Korea’s KF-X Fighter Program

09 September 2010
KFX-single engine version (image : kdn)

Turkey has shown a strong interest in joining Korea’s KF-X fighter development plan, after having already won investment from Indonesia, a chief of the military's aircraft programs said.

Maj. Gen. Choi Cha-kyu, director general of the aircraft program bureau at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said during a forum here Tuesday that Ankara is seriously considering participating in the KF-X program to replace its 180 older F-16 aircraft by 2020.

“Turkey’s air force operates about 180 F-16 aircraft, and there will be a requirement to replace the older fighters with newer ones by 2020,” the two-star Air Force general said. “Once on board, Turkey is expected to bear the same amount of development costs as Indonesia.”

Cha said the KF-X, which was initiated in 2002 but postponed due to financial and technological problems, will start next year with the consent of budget authorities.

Industry sources say Turkey’s participation in the KF-X project could result in a barter deal. Ankara wants Seoul to consider its T-129 helicopter, under development for the Turkish Army, as a candidate for the AH-X heavy attack helicopter acquisition program.

KFX-double engine version (photo : chosun)

The KF-X program calls for developing an indigenous fighter similar to the latest F-16 by 2022 with financial support from foreign nations or defense companies.

About 120 KF-Xs would be built initially and more than 130 aircraft would be produced additionally after the first-phase models reach operational capability.

Korea will foot 60 percent of the KF-X development costs worth some 5 trillion won ($4.2 billion), with the balance to come from other governments or corporate partners in a “risk sharing” attempt.

Under a memorandum of understanding (MOU) signed on July 15, Indonesia agreed to bear 20 percent of the bill and buy about 50 KF-X planes when mass production begins.

The production costs after the development phase are estimated to be about 6 trillion won.

Korea is seeking to receive relevant technology transfers from U.S. and European aerospace firms. Possible corporate partners include Boeing and Lockheed Martin of the United States, the European defense group EADS and Sweden’s Saab.

The original proposal for the KF-X was to develop a fifth-generation stealth fighter, something that is in between the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon and the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Amid controversy over the feasibility of the original plan, the DAPA commissioned a second study in April last year to the Weapons Systems Concept Development and Application Research Center of Konkuk University.

The center then recommended a plan to develop an F-16 type aircraft fitted with the AESA radar, an electronic warfare suite and data link systems fit for a network-centric environment.

The think tank also recommended the jet to have a combat radius about 1.5 times that of the F-16, an airframe life span 1.34 times longer than that of the F-16 and better avionics than that of the F-16 Block 50.

Among other required capabilities are a thrust of 50,000 pounds, provided by either one or two engines, super-velocity intercept and supercruise capabilities, and the ability to hit targets in the air, on land and at sea.

(Korea Times)

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