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South Korea to develop new fighter aircraft engine

The 15,000 lbf-class turbofan engine to be developed by South Korea could potentially lead to a domestic powerplant for the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50/FA-50 trainer/light fighter and unmanned combat aerial vehicles. (Janes/Akhil Kadidal)

South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has announced that it has launched a research programme to develop a 15,000 lbf-class turbofan engine for fighter aircraft.

In a statement on 26 December, DAPA said it plans to complete the development of the engine by the mid-to-late 2030s. The engine will be used to power domestically developed fighter aircraft, DAPA added.

The announcement is in line with a statement from Hanwha Aerospace earlier in 2023. The company, which is expected to be involved in the programme, told Janes that “DAPA plans to design the specifications and basic configuration of the engine [from 2023]”.

“From 2024 to 2029, DAPA plans to develop a prototype core engine and expand it to develop a full-fledged turbofan engine,” the company added.

According to DAPA, the programme will require a large budget and a protracted development period. South Korea currently assembles General Electric (GE) F404-GE-102 turbofan engines and produces parts under licence. In addition, Hanwha signed a technical collaboration agreement with GE in 2016 to domestically produce parts for the F414-GE-400 engine. However, DAPA said a reliance on “foreign manufacturers for manned or unmanned aircraft engines and core parts” has made it “difficult to independently improve performance”.

“The reality is that the technology to independently design and manufacture aircraft engines is significantly lacking,” DAPA added. The agency said it “will establish an effective business plan and co-operate with relevant ministries to lead the development”.

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