Indonesia confirms South Korean delays to joint KFX/IFX fighter programme

James Hardy

 London

Jon Grevatt
Bangkok

Indonesia has reaffirmed its commitment to the joint Korean Fighter Xperiment/Indonesia Fighter Xperiment (KFX/IFX) combataircraft programme after Seoul decided to delay the project by 18 months.

The Indonesian Ministry of Defence (MoD) released a statement on 4 March confirming that the South Korean Defense AcquisitionProgram Administration (DAPA) had delayed the next stage of a programme to develop a next-generation fighter aircraft.

The two countries signed an agreement in August 2012 to start a research and development (R&D) programme intended to producean advanced multirole combat aircraft by 2020 at a dedicated facility in the central South Korean city of Daejeon, DAPA saidat the time.

South Korea’s Agency for Defence Development and manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) are leading the project withassistance from the Indonesian state-owned defence R&D agency and aviation company PT Dirgantara Indonesia (PTDI). DAPA said130 scientists and engineers are involved in the programme: 100 from South Korea and 30 from Indonesia.

Under agreements signed in 2012, Indonesia will pay up to 20% of costs for the USD5 billion development programme, with theremaining 80% split 60:20 between the South Korean government and KAI. In return for its investment Jakarta will secure accessto military technologies and an option to procure the aircraft at a later date. It will also benefit from any future exportsof the aircraft.

In July 2012 KAI officials told IHS Jane’s that the KFX/IFX programme would also be dependent on transfer of technology related to South Korea’s FX-III fighter procurement,in which the Boeing F-15SE Silent Eagle, the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, and the Eurofighter Typhoonare competing to supply 40-60 aircraft under the final phase of the Republic of Korea Air Force’s FX fighter procurement.A decision on that contest is expected later in 2013.

News that the KFX/IFX project was being delayed first emerged on 28 February, when Pos Hutabarat, director general for defencepotential at the Indonesian MoD, told an industry forum in Jakarta that the election of new President Park Geun-hye had forcedan 18-month delay to June 2014.

The Indonesian MoD’s 4 March statement clarified this further, saying that, while the first phase of the technology developmentphase had been completed successfully in December 2012, “political and economic developments” in South Korea had forced Seoulto “delay the implementation of production for 18 months”.

“The delay is caused by the absence of Republic of Korea (RoK) parliamentary approval to provide the budget necessary to supportthe implementation of the engineering and manufacturing development phase,” said the statement, which added that during thedelay, Seoul will implement an economic feasibility study but “will not terminate KFX/IFX, given the funds already spent bythe RoK government”.

South Korea’s ambassador to Indonesia met MoD officials in Jakarta in late February to reassure Indonesia that Seoul remainscommitted to the defence collaborative relationship.

The KFX/IFX programme is one of several joint military procurement projects under way. While Seoul has ordered licence-producedCN235 maritime aircraft from PTDI, Indonesia has agreed to procure 16 T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers from KAI aswell as Black Fox military vehicles produced by Doosan DST. The latter two platforms will be delivered through industrialcollaboration programmes.

In addition, South Korea’s Daewoo Marine & Shipbuilding Engineering (DSME) has also upgraded two Indonesian Cakra Type 209/1300-classsubmarines in South Korea and in December 2011 received a contract to supply three Chang Bogo-class Type 209/1200 diesel-electricattack submarines to the Indonesian Navy – Tentara Nasional Indonesia Angkatan Laut (TNI-AL)

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