The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is reportedly set to conduct a second auction for the country’s domestic fighter development programme.
An auction conducted earlier this week for the KF-X programme was cancelled due to a lack of bidders, reported Yonhap News Agency.
A DAPA official said the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) emerged as sole applier for the programme during the recent bidding, while Korean Air Line, which was supposed to submit a joint bid with Airbus Defense and Space, failed to do so.
The official said: "The process for a second bidding will start tomorrow, and will be closed around the end of this month."
According to the DAPA representative, the Korean Air Line and Airbus team will make their bid at that time.
Another official said the companies reached a verbal agreement last week, and were scheduled to sign a memorandum of understanding to participate in the project, but ‘appeared to need more time.’
The official said: "The bidding failure today would cause a delay in the project."
According to local laws, at least two bidders are required to make the auction valid.
With the suspension of latest bidding, DAPA now expects to choose a preferred bidder next month, and announce the winner as early as June.
The KF-X programme is valued at KRW8.5trn ($7.64bn). It covers indigenous development and production of around 120 fighter jets of the F-16 class, to replace the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF) aging fleet of F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II fighters.
According to the news agency, the programme will witness fierce competition between Korean Air Line and KAI, which has partnered with Lockheed Martin , and holds a technical edge over the former due to its expertise in development of the T-50 Golden Eagle and Surion helicopter.
On the other hand, Korean Air has larger investment capacity and industry experts note that the company will be complemented by Airbus in terms of technical issues.