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South Korea prioritises offsets on KF-21 programme

South Korea's KF-21 fighter aircraft (pictured above) made its first flight in July 2022. Mass production of the aircraft is expected to start in 2026. (Korea Aerospace Industries)

South Korea has added its domestically developed KF-21 (Boramae) fighter aircraft to its list of priority defence offset projects during the coming few years.

The aircraft's inclusion on the offset list underscores the high level of foreign involvement in the KF-21 development programme and also Seoul's determination to locally source replacements.

South Korea's list of priority defence offset projects is administered by the Defense Administration Program Administration (DAPA). The list identifies the technologies that DAPA wants local industry to gain access to through the defence offset programme.

A new priority offset list was issued by DAPA in mid-August, with the KF-21 included for the first time. The list covers priorities during 2022โ€“24 and beyond, although offset requirements linked to the KF-21 programme are scheduled to be discharged during 2024โ€“32.

This timeline is aligned with plans to mass produce the aircraft. Prime contractor Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) oversaw the first flight of the KF-21 in July. Six prototypes have been produced, but mass production is expected to run during 2026โ€“32.

According to DAPA's new offset list, 26 foreign suppliers involved in the KF-21 development programme will be required to discharge offsets. These companies include BAE Systems, General Electric (GE), Moog, Meggitt, Leonardo, Elbit Systems, Honeywell, Boeing, UTC Aerospace Systems, General Dynamics Ordnance and Tactical Systems, and Collins Aerospace.

DAPA's list discloses that these firms will be required to arrange offsets related to specific technologies to support the KF-21 mass production phase.

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