Ending unnecessary disputes on the KF-X project
KF-X project was to acquire KF-16+ grade multipurpose fighter jets to replace the old models in the Air Force after 2020. It is a major program to improve defense capability that requires an investment of 8.6 trillion won ($7.4 billion) in the 10.5 years of system development period.
However, since the new Korean fighter jet was decided in October, 2002, validity analysis has been conducted seven times in the past ten years. As the Air Force strength augmentation was constantly delayed as a result, vacancy of some 100 fighter jets from the goal in 2002 would be inevitable.
Meanwhile, the Air Force, which is the user of the program, claim that domestic development is as valid as the technology level has matured and when considering the operational cost and repair and improvement demands in the decades of lifespan. KT-1 and T-50 have established themselves solid in the training jet market, exporting more than 130 units to six countries. The bases for technological maturity are aviation control and avionic software technology independence levels when developing FA-50.
However, there are concerns that it is hard to expect KF-X development without the United States transferring AESA radar system integration technology. However, the Agency for Defense Development began developing AESA radar in 2006, with a goal to equip KF-X fighters with the system 20 year later by 2025. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration made the decision based on comprehensive review of domestic technology levels, and considering the experience of rapid and condensed growth of Korea, the development is expected to be attainable.
There are many experts and foreign technology cooperation partners who worked together to overcome challenges in the course of developing KT-1 basic training jets and T-50 ultrasonic advanced training jets from the days when the aviation industry was still undeveloped. The accumulated experiences and infrastructure through three decades of indigenous technology development is practically the preparation to become an advanced aviation country through KF-X project.
So it is very regrettable that the exhausting debate continues, wasting valuable time today, 13 years after the new program was finalized. In order to attain the objective of becoming one of the G-7 aviation countries by 2020 through nurturing aviation as a strategic industry, controversies surrounding KF-X project should end here, and we need to concentrate all calibers to take the challenge.
BY Lee Kyung-tae, President of the Korea Society for Aeronautical and Space Sciences