Indonesia readies to restart IF-X work with KAI

Engineers from Indonesian aerospace firm PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI) are set to re-join Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI’s) KF-21 Boramae multirole combat programme this month following Jakarta’s affirmation of its commitment to the joint development, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced on 11 August.

DAPA said in a statement that 32 Indonesian engineers are preparing to restart work on the KF-21 development – formerly known as the Korean Fighter eXperimental/Indonesian Fighter eXperimental (KF-X/IF-X) programme – and that the number will grow to about 100 by the end of 2021.

A total of 114 Indonesian engineers working on the KF-21 project at KAI’s facility in Sacheon left the country in March after Jakarta had fallen behind payments after investing ₩227.2 billion, Yonhap News reported.

South Korea and Indonesia agreed in 2015 to invest ₩8.8 trillion (USD7.6 billion) to develop the KF-21, with Jakarta paying 20% of development costs in return for skills and technology transfer and reportedly needs to pay around ₩700 billion to fulfil its commitment.

Indonesia ceased payments in March 2020 although it had been expected to do so until 2028. However, Jakarta is believed to be seeking to renegotiate its position in light of economic challenges.

Despite the unresolved matter, DAPA stated that Jakarta had also requested that Indonesian engineers return “as soon as possible” to South Korea to work on the aircraft.

“In response, the South Korean government agreed that the return of Indonesian technical staff is required for the stabilisation of the joint development programme,” DAPA said.

The agency added that the two countries earlier attempted to hold negotiations on the payment issue, although meetings could not take place due to the Covid-19 pandemic.

“We will do our best to hold working-level talks as soon as possible and conclude the discussions on the payment issue,” KF-21 head Jung Kwang-sun told Yonhap.

The first KF-21 prototype was unveiled by KAI in a ceremony held on 9 April and witnessed by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto.

The KF-21 is a ‘4.5-generation’ aircraft is powered by two General Electric F414-GE-400K engines from General Electric (GE) Aviation and is expected to have a maximum take-off weight of 25,580 kg with a payload capacity of up to 7,700 kg.

The maiden flight of the first prototype, designated aircraft 001, is scheduled for 2022 following ground testing. Mass production of 120 aircraft is scheduled to start in 2026, with 40 to be delivered between 2026 and 2028 and 80 more by 2032 to replace the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (RoKAF’s) ageing F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft.

by Jr Ng