It seems to take nations forever to figure out if they are going to buy into an expensive fighter jet procurement program, or not. So, although Korea stated its intention to select Lockheed’s F-35 back in March of this year (40 jets for ~$7 billion USD), apparently today Korea stated its intention to actually sign on the dotted line. What probably took six plus months was the negotiations for tech transfer for Korea’s native KF-X program.
It’s apparent that the Koreans wanted to negotiate all they could from Lockheed to get as much tech transfer as possible. To get to this stage, the Koreans essentially has to say no to the Sweds and their Flygsystem 2020 stealth program and the Euros, who offered to throw in the kitchen sink, including full sharing of engine and avionics technology.
Despite all these promises from the Euros and the Swedes, the Koreans decided to go with the Americans for all three F-X phases, with one and two going to Boeing’s F-15K “Slam” Eagle and phase three going to Lockheed’s F-35A. If the Koreans were okay with dissing other technology partners, pray do tell what did Boeing and/or Lockheed promise to the Koreans, regarding technology transfers?
According to the NYT:
The deal, which has yet to be signed, includes undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed to help South Korea’s $8.2 billion KF-X program to develop its own advanced fighter jet, the procurement agency said. The procurement agency said its negotiations had also involved the United States government, whose approval is often needed for technology transfers, suggesting that the deal had already received the government’s blessing.
So, what are these “… undisclosed terms for technological transfers from Lockheed…”? What did the U.S. government agree to allow to be transferred? It’s got to be more than what the Sweds and Euros were promising, right? I’m damn curious.
Anyways, in other news, Japan is going forward with its own indigenous stealth jet designs (spearheaded by Mitsubishi Heavy Industries) called the ATD-X Shinshin.
(Photo from The Aviationist)
Hummm, the technology demonstrator (above) looks like a stealthy version of a Super Hornet.
Regarding native Korean attempts at stealth, the wheels seem to be turning slowly but excruciatingly forward. The Defense Ministry has finally decided on which basic design the KF-X will take, ultimately opting for the double-engine configuration. The battle between the single and twin engines have been a battle between the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and the Agency for Defense Development (ADD). ADD has always wanted to the two engine design and DAPA has always been more conservative. The cost difference between the single engine is $6.2 billion USD vs. $8.3 billion USD in R&D costs alone. Off-the-cuff, it has been know that the ADD prefers the C103 design (i.e. non-forward canard configuration), although no twin-engine design has yet been finalized.
(ADD’s C103 design, image from Chosun.com)
With this design, the estimated cost of R&D is $8.3 billion USD and procurement of 120 craft after 2020, the total budget is expected to be $19.7 billion USD, easily Korea’s largest single defense expenditure ever. Given the shear size of this project, getting the National Assembly to approve the budget is going to be quite an experience, I’m sure.
Any ways, KAI will be building a special development center for the aircraft and GE has been eagerly requesting to be the main contractor for the engines. More to come, I’m sure.
Might as well spit this out while I’m on here. In T-50 news, an internal U.S. Air Force report (the air force’s air university division, I believe) has essentially endorsed the FA-50 as the ideal platform for America’s T-X program (trainer).
Colonel Michael Pietrucha states:
The service should procure the F-X, envisioned as a T-38 replacement, in three variants. The base airframe; T-X, essentially a modernized T-38 equivalent purchased off the shelf- would constitute the most numerous aircraft (400). The AT-X would take the form of an all-weather, combat-capable, multirole T-X with air-to-ground capability including guns, rockets, and precision guided munitions. The FT-X would be a fully capable light fighter with a modern air-intercept radar and air-to-air-missile capability comparable to that of the F-16C. The FT-X is intended as a good fit for the Air National Guard’s ASA mission and for use as an aggressor.
A “base airframe” that’s “off the shelf” and can be tailored into “three variants” like trainer, ground attack and fighter, huh? There’s only one product that fits that bill: the T-50.
Oh, and lastly thumbs-up Madame President!