21 Februari 2014
KFX C-103 twin engine (photo : kappa352)
SEOUL (Yonhap) — The Air Force has officially expressed its support for a twin-engine concept for the country’s indigenous fighter jet development program, saying the design would allow for improved combat capabilities and long-term economic feasibility, officials said Friday.
The move comes amid disagreement over the engine choice for the long-delayed 20 trillion won (US$18.6 billion) project to develop and build some 120 units of F-16 class aircraft to replace the aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration is set to open the bidding process for the fighter project so-called KFX in April, with the goal of reaching an agreement with the preferred bidder by November.
While the specific concept and design have not been confirmed yet, pilots and the potential developer have revealed disagreements over the engine.
During the first meeting of the task force on Tuesday, the Air Force officials delivered an official position in support of a two-engine C-103 concept to improve the aircraft’s combat capabilities and long-term economic feasibility, according to a senior Air Force official.
The Korea Aerospace Industries, South Korea’s sole aircraft maker and a potential bidder in KFX, has been pushing for the C-501 design, borrowed from T-50 trainer jet that was jointly developed by U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.
The defense ministry and procurement agency have also shown interest in the single-engine C-510 type to reduce risk of developing a clean sheet design and improve marketability overseas.
These new jets will have a similar level of maneuverability to the current fleet of planes but will be equipped with more advanced radars and other devices.
Based on the progress in aerospace, ground and naval equipment in the last decade, Seoul has sought to design its own fighter jets to help advance its aerospace industry and add indigenous weapons to Korean-designed aircraft.
However, some industry experts and economists questioned the feasibility of the massive project and potential for the future market for the fourth-generation fighters.
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