The final assembly of South Korea’s indigenous fifth-generation fighter KF-X will be completed by the end of this year.
On Wednesday, manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) said it is currently assembling each of the top, middle and bottom parts of the fuselage of the jet.
“To introduce a prototype next year, KAI is looking forward to a final assembly of the jet in the second half of the year,” a company official was quoted as saying by The Korea Herald.
The multi-role KF-X aircraft, a $7.4 billion project, is being designed and built by KAI. Indonesia has an agreement with Seoul to pay for 20 percent of the cost. In return, Jakarta would get a prototype and the rights to manufacture the aircraft in the country.
The KF-X aircraft will replace Korea’s F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II fleet. The development program is scheduled to be completed in 2026, which includes the production of 15 F414 flight test engines and six prototype fighters by 2021. Flight testing will occur in 2023. 120 KF-X aircraft are scheduled for production serving the South Korean armed forces.
On June 4, engine maker GE Aviation said it delivered the first F414-GE-400K engine to KAI in May.
“Also, we have received 15 engines from General Electric to power six prototypes, with each requiring two engines. The remaining three are spares,” the official added.
KAI selected the F414-GE-400K engine in May 2016. GE Aviation will provide 240 F414 production engines plus spares.
The F414 also powers the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, the Saab JAS 39E/F Gripen and India’s HAL Tejas Mark 2 combat aircraft.
The KF-X jet will be equipped with indigenous avionics, mostly from LIG Nex1 and Hanwha. Israel’s Elbit Systems in February said it won $43 million to supply terrain following/avoidance systems for the AESA (active electronically scanned array) radar under development by Hanwha.
South Korea signed a contract with MBDA in November 2019 to integrate the Meteor air-to-air missiles, while Diehl-BGT is also reportedly set to sign a similar contract for its IRIS-T. American Paveway laser-guided bomb, the satellite-guided Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM) and Textron’s CBU-105 Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser will also be integrated on the KF-X.