SEOUL - South Korea and Indonesia signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) July 15 to jointly develop a 4.5-generation fighter jet with greater capabilities than those of the KF-16.
Indonesia agreed to bear 20 percent of the development costs of the 5 trillion won ($4.1 billion) project over the next decade, according to South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). South Korea plans to foot 60 percent of the bill, with the balance to come from other government or corporate partners.
The two Asian countries will work together in production and marketing of the KF-X aircraft. Indonesia also agreed to buy about 50 KF-X aircraft when mass production begins.
The agreement follows a KF-X letter of intent signed in March 2009 by South Korean President Lee Myung-bak during a visit to Indonesia.
The MoU is "the reflection of our commitment and strong bilateral cooperation in the fields of defense industry," Eris Herryanto, the director general of defense facilities at Indonesia's Defense Ministry, said in a speech ahead of the signing ceremony here with DAPA Commissioner Byun Moo-keun at South Korea's Defense Ministry.
"I'm confident that through signing this MoU on joint development of the KF-X Fighter, the outcome of cooperation shall be implemented at its earliest convenience," Herryanto said. "The realization of joint development, production and marketing will be finalized with our very own maximum of development capability."
Col. Lee Jong-hee, director of DAPA's KF-X development team, said his agency is negotiating with Turkey and the United Arab Emirates on investments in the KF-X program.
"There are two options on the table. One is to lure financial investments from other nations, such as Turkey and the United Arab Emirates," Lee said. "The other is to receive investments from Western aircraft makers wishing to participate in the KF-X."
Boeing and Lockheed Martin of the United States, the European defense group EADS and Sweden's Saab have shown their interest in the KF-X program, which is linked to South Korea's F-X III fighter acquisition competition set for next year. Under the F-X III program, South Korea plans to purchase 40 to 60 stealthy fighters.
Initiated in 2002, the KF-X program was originally aimed at producing and marketing about 120 aircraft, stealthier than Dassault's Rafale or the Eurofighter Typhoon, but not as stealthy as Lockheed's F-35 Lightning II.
Due to questions about the program's economic and technical feasibility, the South Korean government refocused the requirement last year to produce fighter jets on par with the F-16 Block 50 to replace older F-4 and F-5 aircraft.
Key requirements for the KF-X include an active electronically scanned array radar, an electronic warfare suite, an infrared search-and-track system, super-velocity intercept and supercruise capabilities, and air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-sea capabilities.
In the first 11 years of exploratory and full-scale development, about 120 KF-Xs would be built, and more than 130 aircraft would be produced after the first-phase models reach initial operational capability.