South Korea's state arms procurement agency said Thursday it will sign a formal contract next week on its fighter jet development project, known as KF-X.
The Defense Acquisition Procurement Administration plans to ink the deal with Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., the country's sole aircraft maker.
"Negotiations over the formal contract on the KF-X program are going well. It seems to be possible to sign it around Dec. 28," the agency official said on the condition of anonymity.
South Korea hopes to produce its own fighter jet to replace the aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s by mid-2020.
Last month, KAI secured Indonesia's assurance that it will pay for 20 percent of the total cost expected to reach $15 billion.
Under the contract between the DAPA and KAI, six test planes will be manufactured by 2025, according to the official.
The KF-X project received a boost from the U.S. pledge to transfer some of its jet technologies. But South Korea faces a daunting task of finding an alternative as the U.S. made it clear that four core technologies will be excluded.
Those are the active electronically scanned radar, infrared search-and-rescue system, electro-optical targeting pod and radio frequency jammer.
South Korea, meanwhile, plans to launch a task force for the project on Jan. 1 next year that will be composed of 70-80 officials and experts. (Yonhap)