South Korea’s KF-X programme to benefit from local industry boost

Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) under development by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI).

The South Korean government will increase funding support to homegrown defence companies that produce indigenous components for major platforms and weapon systems, with the hope of stimulating the local defence industry and reducing the reliance on imported components, as well as boosting job creation, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 16 April.

KF-X programme

Eleven ongoing procurement programmes have been targeted under this new scheme, with DAPA confirming that these include the Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) under development by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) that aims to develop a replacement for the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (RoKAF’s) ageing F-4E Phantom and F-5E Tiger II fleets.

DAPA also stated that approximately $24.42 million (30 billion won) will be earmarked to support the chosen companies through 2025, with the recipient companies announced in June.

Although intended to be an indigenously built next-generation multirole combat aircraft, the KF-X has evolved into a complex multinational effort that not only includes the participation of other local firms such as Hanwha and LIG Nex1, but also a growing number of foreign suppliers.

Foreign participation

Foreign participation already comprises Cobham Mission Systems (missile eject-launchers), Collins Aerospace (engine start system components, environmental control system, speed constant frequency generator, etc), IAI ELTA (AESA radar development), Elbit Systems (terrain following/terrain avoidance TF/TA system), General Electric (F414-GE-400 engines), L3 Harris (BRU-47 and BRU-57 release systems), Meggitt (brake control system, carbon brakes, displays, wheels etc), and Saab (AESA radar development).

MBDA Missile Systems also announced that it would integrate its Meteor beyond visual range air-to-air missile (BVRAAM) onto the KF-X fighter.

According to DAPA, KAI is expected to complete construction of the first KF-X prototype by the first half of 2021 and conduct the first test flight within 2022.


Indonesia joined the KF-X programme in 2012, signing a memorandum of understanding (MOU) that will enable the country to purchase the KF-X along with transfer of advanced fighter aircraft technologies and production techniques that would benefit local industries.

However, the Indonesian government has fallen short of its funding obligations in recent years, casting doubt over its ability to follow through with its earlier commitments.

by Jr Ng