South Korea Drops 5th Generation Fighter Plan

Article excerpt

[The following article originally appeared on the Defense News web site on 23 July 2009.]

South Korea will refocus its KF-X fighter-development program, which aimed to create a fifth-generation stealth fighter, and instead solicit foreign firms' help in producing about 250 F-16-class fighter jets after 2010, according to a research institute [in South Korea].

The Weapon Systems Concept Development and Application Research Center of Konkuk University was ordered in April by the government to look at the feasibility of the controversial KFX effort, which originally aimed to produce and market about 120 aircraft stealthier than Dassault's Rafale or the Eurofighter Typhoon, but not as stealthy as Lockheed Martin's F-35 Lightning II.

On May 18, 2009, the center told major foreign aircraft manufacturers that the South Korean military wants to replace older F-4s and F-5s with a lesser fighter, one on par with the F-16 Block 50. In a letter, the center sent detailed operational requirements for the new jet, which is to have basic stealth technology and domestically built active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.

   Korea has been evaluated with the capacity of 63 percent of
   necessary technology if the total technology is assumed 100
   percent, the letter said. That ... means that self-development of
   aircraft is possible with joint development of core technology ...
   and technology transfer from abroad."

On May 29, 2009, the center asked Boeing, Eurofighter, Lockheed Martin, and Saab about their views on the per-plane cost estimate of $50 million, as well as budget-sharing ideas and technology transfer. The center will wrap up the feasibility study by October 2009. The Ministry of National Defense will issue a decision on the KF-X initiative by year's end.

Requirements

The new jet is to have a combat radius about 1.5 times that of the F-16, an airframe life span 1.34 times longer than that of the F-16, better avionics than that of the F-16 Block 50, an electronic warfare suite, an infrared search-and-track system, and data link systems fit for a network-centric environment, the document says.

South Korea's LIG Nexl is likely to build the AESA radar using technology provided by Israel's ERa Systems. Among other required capabilities are thrust of 50,000 pounds, provided by either one or two engines; super-velocity intercept and super-cruise capabilities; and the ability to hit targets in the air, on land, and at sea. …