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GE wants part in domestic fighter jet development

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Published : 2014-08-21 20:33
Updated : 2014-08-21 20:33

General Electric Korea on Thursday expressed its willingness to join the South Korean government’s plan to develop a double-engine platform for its next generation of fighter jets.

The U.S.-based conglomerate said it could do more good when collaborating with Korean companies in the KFX project, while promoting its rich history and competitiveness in the global aerospace industry.

“GE has played a significant role in the development of Korea’s aerospace defense industry by providing jet engines, avionics and integrated systems,” said Khang Sung-wook, president and CEO of GE Korea, at a press conference in Seoul.

“Through the KFX program, GE seeks to elevate its level of contribution to the growth and development of Korea’s aerospace defense industry by expanding collaboration on the development of engine technologies and supporting exports of Korean fighter jets.”
General Electric Korea president and CEO Khang Sung-wook speaks to the press at Westin Chosun hotel in downtown Seoul on Thursday. (GE Korea)

This will help Korea to localize its production of engines, as well as create more jobs and nurture aerospace experts, he added.

GE has installed 1,300 engines in a total of 600 fighter jets in Korea.

The company has locally produced the F404 engine for Korea’s first supersonic jet trainer T-50, and transferred its major manufacturing lines for the LM2500 engine for Aegis destroyers.

Khang said GE could also contribute to the KFX program in terms of marketing, noting its support for exports of the T-50 and FA-50 jets with GE engines to Indonesia, Iraq and the Philippines.

“Not many people thought Korea could export the jets but I believed that GE’s vast global network has supported the whole overseas sales process on some level. This could be the case for the KFX,” he said.

However, the company failed to elaborate on the possible technology transfer it has pledged for the KFX.

Given that aircraft engines are classified as confidential, the chances of Korea inheriting GE’s know-how are low, market insiders say.

“Because everything is still in an early stage, we will have to wait for the South Korean government’s decision on the issue,” Khang said.

The ambitious plan to develop and produce twin-engine fighter jets with a better stabilizing function and operational efficiency has not yet been made public.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration is expected to launch the tender for the project by the end of September. Companies including Korea Aerospace Industries are expected to bid.

The development cost for the double-engine platform is expected to be around 8.5 trillion won ($8.2 billion), according to the Korea Institute for Defense Analyses.

By Bae Ji-sook (baejisook@heraldcorp.com)

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