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South Korea approves production plan for 40 KF-21s

South Korea seeks to acquire the KAI KF-21 (pictured) to replace its ageing Boeing (McDonnell Douglas) F-4 Phantom and Northrop F-5 Tiger fleet. (KAI)

A South Korean announcement of an estimated KRW7.92 trillion (USD5.85 billion) production plan for the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae covers 40 aircraft, weapons, and associated costs, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said.

A DAPA spokesperson told Janes on 2 April that the estimated budget “is for the planning” of the KF-21 production programme. According to the spokesperson, the production plan “includes” 40 KF-21s, integrated product support (IPS), facilities, air-launched munitions for the KF-21 (including bombs and missiles), plus non-recurring costs and other costs.

The spokesperson said the agency could not disclose “the cost of establishing the production line”. The approximately KRW7.92 trillion will be invested by 2028, the agency said. The new estimated budget follows the South Korean National Assembly's approval of KRW238.6 billion (USD176.5 million) in December 2023 to produce an initial and unspecified number of KF-21 Block I aircraft in 2024.

The agency said in March that it will proceed with the “first production contract for 20 KF-21 fighter jets in 2024, with the remaining 20 to be completed in 2025. What is important is that 40 aircraft were approved as planned and there was no disruption to the original deployment schedule”, DAPA said.

The production plan was decided during the 160th meeting of the Defense Acquisition Program Promotion Committee (Defense Affairs Committee) at the South Korean Ministry of National Defense (MND) on 22 March. Janes understands that DAPA has not yet signed a contract with KAI to produce the aircraft. “DAPA plans to sign the KF-21 initial ... production contract within 2024,” the DAPA spokesperson said.

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