Indonesia is likely to send back its engineers to South Korea for participation in the KF-X fighter jet project in a sign that the two countries are close to an agreement on the former re-joining the program.
Indonesia has asked Seoul to help its engineers “catch up with the technological progress made while they were away back home over coronavirus concerns,” the defense ministry said Wednesday, according to Yonhap News.
Indonesia is a partner for South Korea's 8.8 trillion won (US$7.9 billion) project to develop its first a 4.5 generation fighter jet, though Jakarta has stopped making milestone payments to shoulder 20 percent of the total development cost.
Indonesian engineers working alongside those of Korea Aerospace Industries returned home in March 2020 amid the coronavirus pandemic. South Korean engineers continued with the development and unveiled the jet's first prototype earlier this month.
Indonesia reaffirmed its commitment to the project during its Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto's visit to South Korea to attend the KF-X jet’s rollout ceremony. South Korean officials had then asserted Prabowo had agreed to get back into the project and ordered working-group level discussions.
"Indonesia welcomed proposals made by South Korea to boost the two countries' defense cooperation and expressed hope for South Korea's support to help Indonesian officials catch up with the technology gap in the KF-21/IF-X joint development project," the ministry said a report to the parliament.
Possible cooperation includes the provision of “unused military supplies to Indonesia,” the ministry said, according to Yhohap.
The joint work is expected get back on track in months, officials said, with the two sides pushing to hold the next round of negotiations on sharing the development cost before the end of the first half of the current year.
The KF-X jet, christened KF-21 at the roll-out will undergo various ground tests starting next month. The first flight test is scheduled for 2022, with the entire development set to be completed by 2026.