In a mutual agreement between the Korean Air and European aerospace giant Airbus there will a project worth $8 Billion for the production of fighter jets, said by an airline spokesman on Sunday. They will be made to compete against Lockheed Martin and the Korean Aerospace Industries. This project is said to produce 120 fighter jets of the “indigenous” type which are to replace the country’s feeble F-4s and F-5s.
“We’ve signed a memorandum of understanding with the Airbus.” said a Korean Air spokesman.
The partnership agreement with Korean Air was confirmed by Airbus, saying the company was approached first for the project.
“We are cooperating with Korean Air which is to participate in the KF-X project” an Airbus official said. “Korean Air, one of our major customers, has asked for support.”
According to Seoul’s Yonhap news agency, the condition of the bid is for encouraging a tie up between local enterprises and foreign companies which will help secure the country’s technology.
The final winner will be announced in July by the South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Program Administration, which is under the direct supervision of the Ministry of National Defence.
“If chosen as the successful bidder, Korean Air and Airbus will conclude a formal agreement on their business tie-up,” the Airbus official said.
The Korean Airbus would have to come up with a completely new design because the Eurofighter Typhoon’s delta wings do not match the specifications out forth by South Korea.
“Eurofighter does not fit the swept-wing concept favored by South Korea.”, told by Lee II- Woo of Korea Defence Network to AFP.
The aircraft maintenance workshops for both South Korea and the US air force are being done by Korean Air, who also has many years of experience manufacturing wings for Boeing.
“Korean Air would play a role as a manufacturer with technological assistance from Airbus”, Lee said
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the rival bidder developed South Korea’s first supersonic aircraft T-50 Golden Eagle teaming up with Lockheed Martin in the year 2002. This gives the Korea Aerospace Industries a slightly higher technical advantage.
Korean Air and Korea Aerospace Industries will need assistance from their foreign partners for the design of the new fighter jet, Lee said.
The proposal from Korean Air and its partners will be based on a modified F-18 design and on another the Twin-engine platform will be used by the South Korean military over the single engine. After the development of the Eurofighter the Airbus is quite familiar with the platforms.
80 percent of the stake would be of the South Korean government while the winner would have the remaining 20 percent stake.
“It is to be seen whether the project will proceed as scheduled as it would require somewhere between 10 to 30 billion dollars and up to 20 years to develop a new fighter jet” Lee added
Analysts express concern over the project since the development period is short and the budget is too small for the development of a new fighter jet.
US suppliers were always in favour by the country’s Military especially when the air force is concerned. This reflects the close ties both the military force share.
A number of bids for the South’s military contracts were put forth by the Airbus in the recent years which includes $1.38 billion for air refuelling tankers. The deal’s final bidder has yet to be chosen.