Indigenous fighter jet for a creative economy“Creative economy,” the main agenda of the Park Geun-hye administration, focuses on creation of jobs, convergence of different industries, information and communications technology and advanced science technology. Aerospace industry is a comprehensive field of high-tech system and can lead all the factors the creative economy advocates. It is hard to find another field where creativity, imagination and scientific technology can work together to produce jobs and high added value. That’s why the United States and other developed nations consider aerospace industry the core of creating national wealth.
In 1982, Korea assembled the fighter jet Jegong-ho for the first time. Since then, Korea successfully developed KT-1, a world-class basic training jet, and T-50, a supersonic advanced training jet. Now, we expected to accomplish the ultimate goal of developing indigenous fighter jet soon.
With the aeronautic technology accumulated through the development of T-50, we have sufficient technological capacity to develop our own fighter jet. Also, the prospect of exporting Korean fighters is not grim. Most of all, a fighter jet is generally used for more than 40 years, and the maintenance cost is about 2.5 times the purchase price over the period. If the indigenous fighter jet development becomes successful, it would bring synergy effect on nearly all industrial fields and guarantee stable employment. According to the research on Korean fighter development by the Agency for Defense Development, it would cost 23 trillion won ($20.4 billion) for the lifespan of the fighter jet, including the 6 trillion won development cost. Then, we can save 5 trillion won compared to purchasing the fighter jet from another country. Also, Korea’s technological level is about 90 percent of the developed nations.
The Korean Air Force, the user of the fighter jet, is desperate as it must replace the outdated fighters like F-4, F-5 or F-16. The nation that sold those fighter jets to Korea has been strictly controlling the technology, and maintenance and parts purchases have resulted in enormous expenses. We should establish air force capacity on our own, as it is the key of the modern warfare and core of independent national defense. For solid security and economic boost, the Korean indigenous fighter project should take off without any further hesitation.
*President of the Korean Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences and a professor at Hanyang University
By Cho Jin-soo