Published : 2010-03-29 23:29
Updated : 2010-03-29 23:29
The government yesterday said it had finalized plans to start exploratory development of home-grown fighter jets and light attack helicopters next year.
The decision marks South Korea`s aspirations to indigenously develop such aircraft, instead of mostly relying on imports as it has done so far.
The plans were announced following a meeting of related ministries including the Defense Ministry, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and the Defense Acquisition Program Administration yesterday.
"These are part of government`s hopes to bolster the country`s aircraft industry to globally competitive levels by 2020," DAPA spokesman Kim Young-san said in a press briefing.
The programs also are necessary to replace the country`s aging jets and helicopters.
The fighter jet project will be pursued under the name of KF-X in aim to build around 120 jets, while the helicopters would be developed under the KAH program, aiming to manufacture more than 200 units.
The projects will be based in Seoul, but technological support from leading foreign aircraft makers will be necessary, DAPA said.
For the KF-X program, about 40 percent of the funds and technology will come from overseas.
Seoul also will continue to pursue plans to introduce bigger, high-end jets and helicopters from foreign manufacturers as the government believes it would be too costly and unnecessary to try and produce the entire spectrum indigenously.
The third phase of the FX program for securing next generation fighter jets is set to commence next year with foreign bidders. Seoul also plans for acquiring Apache attack helicopters from the United States.
"The airforce will be a mix of high- and middle-end jets and helicopters, with the more sophisticated models being imported while South Korea focuses on developing the middle or lower-end models," said one military source.
Exploratory development is a process prior to the actual development to explore the feasibility of acquisition programs.
Expected to last about two years for both the KF-X and KAH programs, the process will cost 44 billion won ($38.7 million) and 19.2 billion won each.
Another 5 trillion won will be needed for the jets when actual development starts, while the choppers will need about 600 billion won. The entire process before production is actually possible is expected to take up to a decade.
The budget, however, will be the big factor for pushing through with the acquisition plans.
The National Assembly`s defense committee last year did not earmark the 1.4 billion won and 3 billion won it requested for the exploratory development of the KF-X and KAH, respectively.
The funds, however, may be doled out next year now that the Ministry of Knowledge Economy is also pursuing the projects.
By Kim Ji-hyun