12 Februari 2015
KFX fighter aircarft (image : Korea Times)
Seoul has been forced to re-tender its bid for a developmental contract related to the country’s KFX fighter aircraft programme.
Since only one bidder, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), showed up to submit a bid on Monday 9 February, procurement laws have forced a retendering of the programme, says a report by state news agency Yonhap.
On 10 February, the country’s Defence Acquisition Procurement Agency (DAPA) posted the new tender for the KRW8.5 trillion ($8.3 billion) programme, which is to run from 2015 to 2025. The deadline for bidding has been pushed back to 24 February 2015.
The KFX is envisaged as a two-engined fighter that is more advanced than the Lockheed Martin F-16, but not up to the standard of types such as the F-35 Lightning II. It will replace obsolescent types in the Korean air force’s inventory, namely the McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom and Northrop F-5.
KAI would partner with Lockheed Martin on the project, in which the Indonesian government has a 20% share. Seoul is expected to order 120 examples of the KFX, and Indonesia 80.
Media reports indicate that the other likely bidder will be Korean Air through a partnership with Airbus Defence & Space. Although Airbus is primarily concerned with larger types such as the A400M tactical transport and A330 multi-role tanker transport (MRTT), it has a 46% shareholding in the Eurofighter Consortium.
The Eurofighter Typhoon was a failed bidder for Seoul’s F-X III competition, which was ultimately won by the F-35 in late 2013. The other failed bidder was Boeing’s F-15 Silent Eagle.
A hallmark of the intense – and often acrimonious - F-X III competition was the degree of industrial cooperation rival bidders were willing to offer in relation to KFX.
Both KAI and Korean Air have strong defence backgrounds, but KAI has more experience in developing and manufacturing fighter aircraft. Apart from collaborating with Lockheed to develop the T-50 family of trainer/light attack jets, it also produces the forward fuselage of the F-15, and has been involved in the manufacturing and re-manufacturing of other military types.
Korean Air, for its part, provides extensive MRO services for military aircraft at its Pusan facility.
In late 2014, Indonesia’s defence ministry said that Jakarta had signed an agreement with Seoul that set the stage for KFX to move into the “engineering and manufacturing phase” – the second of the programme’s three phases.
The statement said the first phase, which covered technology development, was completed in December 2012. The third and final phase of the programme covers the development of production capabilities.