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Lockheed set for 'comprehensive' support for Korea's own fighter jet ambitions

With the planned purchase of F-35 stealth fighter jets, South Korea will gain "comprehensive"

support from the largest U.S. defense firm, Lockheed Martin, in its bid to produce an indigenous fighter jet, code-named the KF-X, a senior company official said Wednesday.

"Lockheed has made a comprehensive offer through our offset program for the KF-X, which would be assistance through technology transfer and engineering expertise that we would place in Korea to help design and develop the KF-X airplane," Dave Scott, director of the Bethesda-based firm's F-35 international business development, said in a briefing for Korean reporters here.

He cited Lockheed's partnership with South Korea for the development of T-50 trainer jets.

"We are fully committed to a successful program as we assisted on the T-50 program. We now look forward to assisting on the KF-X program," he said.

More specifically, he said Lockheed will provide a comprehensive data package, including information on related fighter jet programs and then send design experts to South Korea "to work side-by-side with Korean designers."

Under the KF-X program, South Korea aims to develop an F-16-class aircraft around 2020 for subsequent mass-production.

Lockheed has effectively become a foreign partner for the project as Seoul awarded it a major deal in late November to supply the nation's next-generation fighter jets.

South Korea plans to buy 40 F-35s starting in 2018, with the possibility open for the purchase of 20 more.

Scott said the first delivery can be made as early as 2017.

"It's up to the Korean government to make their decision about when they want those deliveries to occur," he said.

The actual price will be decided by talks between the governments of the two sides as the contract is being process in accordance with Foreign Military Sales, he added.

"That price on the F-35 continues to decrease," he said. "An airplane in that period of time is approximately $85 million." (Yonhap News)