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S. Korea, Indonesia to bring fighter jet project back on track

A prototype of South Korea’s first homegrown fighter jet, the KF-21 Boramae, is revealed to the public, April 9, 2021. (Yonhap)
A prototype of South Korea’s first homegrown fighter jet, the KF-21 Boramae, is revealed to the public, April 9, 2021. (Yonhap)
South Korea and Indonesia will soon resume work on their joint fighter jet project, as Indonesia works to catch up on its already late payments and return engineers to production lines here, Korea’s arms procurement agency said Thursday.

The Indonesian defense minister, who took part in the rollout ceremony here on April 9, when Korea revealed a prototype jet, agreed to work out a plan for the resumption of the project, saying Indonesia remains committed to the joint work, a senior agency official said.

Some have speculated that Indonesia, which seeks a 20 percent stake in the program along with technology know-how but has paid just 13 percent of what it owes, might withdraw from its commitment, made in 2010. The Southeast Asian country has since reportedly asked for a loan or discount on the payments.

“There was no talk of any loan, I can say that. … A payment discount or deferral option goes way back. We’ve been discussing that since 2018, when Indonesia said it was facing financial difficulties,” the agency official said.

The official added that the fighter project has nothing to do with Indonesia’s initiative to build a gigantic farm across the archipelago. Indonesia recently sought Korea’s support for the program, which it hopes will cut its reliance on food imports. That would be a separate economic exchange, the official said.

Under the plan, Korea is to build 120 jets and Indonesia is to build 48 jets after five years of prototype testing. The work would start in 2026 at the earliest.

The model is Korea’s first homegrown warplane, a cheaper and less-stealth alternative to the US-made F-35, which is the most advanced fifth-generation jet.

By Choi Si-young (siyoungchoi@heraldcorp.com)
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