The South Korean Ministry of Defence has given Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) a green light to go ahead with its development of the next-generation fighter jet for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF).
The KF-X – as the project is called – aims to provide the Asian nation with at least 120 new modern combat jets. Together with the F-35 they will have to replace the aging fleets of McDonnell Douglas F-4s and Northrop F-5s of the RoKAF, and they will eventually take over the essential role of Korea’s Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcons.
Starting in 2025 the KF-X is expected to slowly enter service. The initial budget for the development has been put on US$ 7.8 billion, with more than 8 billion dollars reserved for initial production.
To get the bid KAI teamed up with Lockheed Martin, with whom it has cooperated as well on the successful T-50 advanced training jet and F-50 light fighter/attack aircraft. The partners beat the Korean Air Lines/Airbus team.
What the KF-X will look like is still uncertain. There are several designs on the drawing board, including a version with canards near the cockpit and with both single and double engines. Lockheed Martin prefers a single engine concept, because it is cheaper to develop and easier to design.
The development of a KIA/Lockheed Martin aircraft takes place next to the planned introduction of 40 Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II aircraft into RoKAF service, with the first of these stealthy combat jets planned to arrive in 2018 or 2019. The deal was announced in September, after Seoul ditched the earlier selection of 60 newly developed Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagles. A public revolt of former Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) generals pushed the Seoul government in the direction of the Lightning.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The Republic of Korea Air Force next generation KF-X fighter jet might look somewhat like this, but possibly with only one engine (Image © Ministry of Defence, South Korea)