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South Korea eyes four-engine aircraft for new transport project

South Korea has announced a new project to acquire heavy-lift transport aircraft but with domestic industry involvement to augment the country‘s existing force of cargo aircraft. (Lockheed Martin)

South Korea is focusing on four-engined transport aircraft for a project intended for acquiring a new fleet of heavy cargo haulers by 2026.

On 25 March, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced the “Large transporter secondary project”. An investment of KRW710 billion (USD581.5 million) is being made to procure the aircraft between 2022 and 2026.

The Defense Projects Promotion Committee approved the budget.

DAPA told Janes that the Lockheed-Martin C-130J-30 Super Hercules, Airbus A400M Atlas, and the twin-engined Embraer C-390 Millennium “are expected to participate in this project”.

However, a Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) source told Janes that the required operational capability (ROC) of the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) limits participation in the project to aircraft with four engines.

“Embraer‘s KC390 does not fit the ROC of the RoKAF, so it is difficult to participate in the project. As per the ROC, [aircraft] must be equipped with four turboprop engines. [This means] the A400M and C-130J,” said the source.

According to DAPA, the project will improve the ability of the RoKAF to transport personnel and supplies in domestic duties and international peacekeeping roles. It declined to mention the number of transport aircraft to be acquired.

An important project requirement is that the selected international company has to form a consortium with South Korea's domestic defence industry for joint production or offset manufacturing.

The consortium will “deliberate on the purchase plan, acquisition plan, negotiation strategy with foreign companies, and detailed promotion plan including method of decision-making”, DAPA said in a press note.

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