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KF-X fighter prototype to be rolled out in first half of 2021, DAPA confirms

26 September 2019
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An artist impression of the KF-X fighter aircraft. DAPA announced on 26 September that the critical design phase of the aircraft has been completed. Source: DAPA

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is expected to complete construction of the first KF-X fighter aircraft prototype by the first half of 2021 and conduct the first test flight of the platform a year later, South Korea's Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) confirmed in a 26 September statement.

DAPA said that the critical design phase of the aircraft has now been completed, allowing the KF-X/IF-X project, which stands for Korean Fighter eXperimental/Indonesian Fighter eXperimental, to move on to the next phase: prototype construction.

Development of the single-seat, twin-engined, multirole aircraft began in January 2016, with the preliminary design of the KF-X being finalised in June 2018. Production work on the first prototype began in February 2018, with KAI announcing at the time that it had started manufacturing the aircraft's bulk head.

As Jane's reported, the KF-X development programme envisages the production of six prototypes, followed by four years of trials and the completion of development by mid-2026. Serial production of the aircraft will take place during 2026-32, with an initial 120 units intended to replace the Republic of Korea Air Force's (RoKAF's) ageing fleets of F-4E Phantom and F-5E Tiger II aircraft.

Total production is expected to exceed 350 units, including a quota for exports.

Indonesia is currently renegotiating its involvement in the programme, although Jakarta remains committed to honouring its payment obligations set out under a 2015 financial agreement.

Under this original agreement, which is now subject to renegotiation, Indonesia committed to paying for 20% of the total development costs, which are estimated at about USD8 billion. The South Korean government would pay for 60% of the development programme, with prime contractor KAI covering the remaining 20%.

KAI's industry partner on the project is PT Dirgantara Indonesia.

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