S. Korea rules out delays in fighter project despite Indonesia's delayed payment

Lim Chang-won Reporter Posted : 2018-10-22 16:45 Updated : 2018-10-22 16:45
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[Courtesy of Korea Aerospace Industries]

SEOUL -- South Korea's state arms procurement agency ruled out any delays in a costly military project to develop home-made fighter jets by 2026 after Indonesia balked at paying its share as a project partner and called for re-negotiations.

The project is aimed at manufacturing 120 fighter jets that would replace South Korea's aged fleet of US-made F-4 and F-5 fighters. In January 2016, South Korea officially launched the KF-X project led by a consortium of Korea Aerospace Industries, the country's sole military aircraft maker, and US aerospace giant Lockheed Martin.

Indonesia agreed to invest 20 percent of expenses in return for receiving one prototype plane, gaining access to some technical data and information and producing 50 planes on its home soil. The South's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said the Southeast Asian country has stopped making its payment since the second half of last year.

"There has been no payment since the second half of last year," DAPA spokesman Kang Hwan-seok told reporters Monday, adding Indonesia's unpaid balance stood at some 230 billion won ($204 million) by the first half of this year.

"There was a request to negotiate the method of payment," Kang said. Details were not given, but the Indonesian rupiah has weakened sharply against the U.S. dollar and there have been concerns that the currency is closing in on its nadir from the Asian Financial Crisis of 1997-1998.

In June, DAPA presented a concrete timetable to complete a design process by September next year and produce the first prototype in 2021. Washington has been reluctant to allow Lockheed to transfer technologies related to the active electronically scanned array (ASEA) radar and other core components.

South Korea will receive some technical support from an Israeli firm for the development of the AESA, a more advanced and sophisticated system which can radiate multiple beams of radio waves at multiple frequencies simultaneously.