SEOUL, South Korea — South Korea has chosen US conglomerate General Electric (GE) over a European competitor as the preferred bidder to supply engines for a multibillion-dollar fighter jet project, government officials said.

"Our plan is to finalize a contract in June," a spokesman at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) told AFP.

GE Aviation was chosen over a European Eurojet consortium that included Rolls-Royce Holdings and MTU Aero Engines AG.

South Korea is looking to develop a fleet of 120 "indigenous" next-generation, multirole fighter jets over the next 10 years to replace its aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters imported from the United States.

The Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) program has an 18 trillion won (US $15.2 billion) budget, with Indonesia signing on board as a junior partner earlier this year.

Indonesia would cover about 20 percent of the cost, with up to 100 Indonesian workers taking part in the development and production process.

While DAPA will be the government agency supervising the project, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) will lead the industrial team that is tasked with bringing the program to fruition.

KAI won the development tender in March last year with a bid made in partnership with US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

South Korea had sought to tap into 25 fighter jet technologies owned by Lockheed Martin, but the US government prohibited the export of four of them — including the sensitive technology to build active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

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