Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has reportedly been selected as the preferred bidder for the country’s domestic fighter jet development programme.
In a statement seen by Yonhap News Agency, the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said: "After reviewing their development plan, ability and bid price by the evaluation team comprised of government officials and experts, we’ve selected KAI as the preferred bidder.
"We will make a final selection after completing negotiations on details to launch the project in the first half of this year."
The Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) project is valued at KRW8.5trn ($7.64bn). It covers domestic development and production of approximately 120 fighter jets of the F-16 class.
The new fighter jets are scheduled 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.
KAI had partnered with the US-based Lockheed Martin, and was competing against the team of Korean Air Lines (KAL) and Airbus Defense and Space.
According to the news agency, the tender required participants to partner with a foreign technical assistance company, and KAI holds a technical edge over KAL due to its expertise in development of the T-50 Golden Eagle and the Surion utility helicopter.
Meanwhile, KAI told Reuters that it will pursue the KF-X programme leveraging experience gained from previous projects such as the T-50 light trainer jet.
The South Korean Government is set to fund 60% of the development costs, while the remaining 40% of funding is expected to be shared by the wining team and Indonesia, which is participating in the project as part of a bilateral defence treaty signed with the country, as reported by Agence-France Presse.
Image: A Republic of Korea Air Force F-4E fighter aircraft in flight. Photo: courtesy of MSgt Philip J Lewis, USAF.