Straits Times Indonesia
Seoul. South Korea and Indonesia are launching a partnership today to develop a new stealth fighter jet which has been delayed for years by technical and budget problems.
Defense and procurement officials from the two countries will mark the beginning of their partnership with the opening today of a new joint research center in Daejeon, about 160km south of Seoul, reported Yonhap news agency yesterday.
Noh Dae Rae, head of the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (Dapa), and Eris Herryanto, secretary-general of the Indonesian defense ministry, will attend the event, said the administration.
Referring to the so-called KF-X project, Mr Noh said in a statement: ‘It will be a strategic project that will be responsible for the development of defense industries and national security in both countries.’
He said the KF-X project has been made possible because of ‘consistent exchange and cooperation in the defense industry and defense procurement’ by both sides.
South Korea launched the project in 2000 to produce home-built KF-X fighters equipped with stealth capabilities, reported Agence France-Presse.
Indonesia’s state news agency Antara said the KF-X fighter would best the F-16 fighter jet with a ’50 per cent higher attack radius, better avionics system and better radar as well as stealth capabilities’. The F-16 was first produced in the 1970s but current versions have been improved.
Indonesia will send 30 researchers to join about 100 South Korean researchers to work on the joint development project over the next two years, according to Yonhap.
After initial delays due to questions about the economic and technical feasibility of the KF-X project, South Korean President Lee Myung Bak agreed early last year to push ahead with the project amid growing tensions with North Korea.
Seoul plans to decommission all of its aging F-4 and F-5 fighter jets by 2020. Yonhap said about 170 F-5s are still in the South Korean air force.
South Korea and Indonesia signed a preliminary deal on the partnership last year and a formal agreement was signed in April this year.
Under the deal, Indonesia will acquire about 50 of the KF-X fighters in return for shouldering 20 per cent of the development costs in the multi-million-dollar project, the South Korean defense ministry has said.
A prototype of the homegrown fighter jet will be selected by next year, according to Dapa.
Defense ties between South Korea and Indonesia have strengthened in recent months.
In May, Indonesia agreed to buy 16 of South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle trainer jets, marking the first South Korean export of the supersonic jets.
Last month, a South Korean shipbuilder, Daewoo Shipbuilding & Marine Engineering, was short-listed as one of the final two candidates to export submarines to Indonesia in a project worth about $1 billion.
Reprinted courtesy of Straits Times Indonesia. To subscribe to Straits Times Indonesia and/or the Jakarta Globe call 021 2553 5055.