KF-X is allowed 21 technologies

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KF-X is allowed 21 technologies

Washington greenlit the export of a package of 21 fighter-jet technologies needed for Korea’s ambitious KF-X project, the Ministry of National Defense announced on Wednesday.

But four key technologies remain blocked by Washington.

“On Nov. 30, the U.S. State Department, which oversees the granting of export licenses, granted permission to Lockheed Martin to hand over 21 technologies needed for the KF-X project,” said an official at the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). “After the granting of the export license, the Korean Defense Ministry, Foreign Ministry and DAPA officials held further negotiations with the U.S. negotiators.”

A Korean team of arms procurement negotiators and their support team met with the U.S. officials in Washington earlier this month from Dec. 1 to 3. U.S. government agreed to enable the export of the 21 technologies in a broad framework.

The announcement came amid concerns that Seoul will face major setbacks to its goal of indigenously building its own fighter jets by 2025 following reports that the United States may delay export licenses for the 21 technologies, after initially denying the export of four key technologies needed for the aircraft from Lockheed Martin.

In September 2014, the Korean government signed a 7.34 trillion won ($6.41 billion) deal with Lockheed Martin to buy 40 F-35A jets and receive technical support for Korea’s project to locally build its own next-generation fighter jet.

Korea initially asked for 25 technologies from the U.S. defense contractor; however, the DAPA belatedly admitted in September that Washington had rejected the previous April export licenses to share four core technologies pertaining to its F-35 stealth fighter jets.

However, the DAPA assured that there was no problem in receiving the remaining 21 technologies by November.

But last month it appeared the United States may reject or delay the export of the remaining 21 technologies. There was concern that each of the technologies and their numerous subcategories may have to be negotiated separately.

The DAPA said it did not announce the results of the negotiations right away because it needed to be reviewed by the government. But the announcement comes with an emphasis that the Korean government managed to acquire the export licenses from Washington by the end of November as promised. A DAPA spokesman added, “We plan to officially start the KF-X project within this year,” to assure that the KF-X project is going along with plans to be completed within the next decade.

BY SARAH KIM [kim.sarah@joongang.co.kr]

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