Indonesia has commenced the process to send 100 engineers to South Korea to re-start its participation in the KF-21 fighter jet project even as the issue of 700 billion won ($605.8 million) overdue payment remains unresolved.
Some 32 Indonesian engineers are undergoing administrative procedures, such as visa application, to return to the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI headquarters in the city of Sacheon, according to a press release from S Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
Starting with the 32 engineers, around 100 personnel will be back at the Sacheon plant by the end of the year after Jakarta reaffirmed its commitment to the project earlier this year.
Regarding the pending payments issue, the two countries are to hold a round of negotiations. "We will do our best to hold working-level talks as soon as possible and conclude the discussions on the payment issue," Jung Kwang-sun, heading the KF-21 program at the agency, was quoted as saying in the release.
Indonesia had withdrawn its engineers in 2020 citing COVID-related issues but speculation was rife then that Jakarta was seeking to quit the joint fighter jet development project and buy Rafale jets off-the-shelf.
The South Korean-Indonesia partnership is aimed at developing a new fighter jet by 2026. Indonesia had agreed to bear 20 percent of the total development cost of 8.8 trillion won (US$7.6 billion) in exchange for a couple of prototypes and technology to manufacture the aircraft in Indonesia.
The KF-21 prototype was unveiled in April this year with the name ‘Boramae’. Currently, Ground tests are currently under way and the first flight test is scheduled for 2022.