The Korea Aerospace Industries KF-X is a South Korean program to develop an advanced multirole fighter for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and Indonesian Air Force (TNI-AU), spearheaded by South Korea with Indonesia as the primary partner. It is South Korea's second fighter development program following the FA-50.The project was first announced by South Korean President Kim Dae-Jung at the graduation ceremony of the Air Force Academy in March 2001. South Korea and Indonesia had agreed to cooperate in the production of KF-X warplanes in Seoul on July 15, 2010. The initial operational requirements for the KF-X program as stated by the ADD (Agency for Defence Development) were to develop a single-seat, twin-engine jet with stealth capabilities beyond either the Dassault Rafale or Eurofighter Typhoon, but still less than the Lockheed Martin F-35 Lightning II. The overall focus of the program is producing a fighter with higher capabilities than a KF-16 class fighter by 2020.
KAI KF-X Design and development
According to the Weapon Systems Concept Development and Application Research Center of Konkuk University, the KF-X is intended to be a superior than KF-16 which would replace South Korea's aging F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft, with production numbers estimated to be over 250 aircraft. Compared to KF-16, the KF-X will have a 50% greater combat radius, 34% longer airframe lifespan, better avionics including a domestically produced AESA radar, and better electronic warfare, IRST, and datalink capabilities. Operational requirements also specify approx 50,000 pounds of thrust provided by one or preferably two engines, high-speed interception and supercruise capabilities, basic stealth technology, and multirole capabilities. There are currently two competing designs for the KFX, the KFX-201 which has a tri-plane layout with canards and a more conventional, Single Engine F-35 style KFX-101 design.
South Korea will fund 60% of the aircraft's development, and expects foreign partners to provide the remaining 40% of the development funding. South Korea possesses 63% of the necessary technology to produce the KF-X, and is therefore seeking cooperation from Indonesian Aerospace, Turkish Aerospace Industries, Saab, Boeing, and Lockheed Martin to develop the KF-X. About 120 KF-Xs would be built initially and more than 130 aircraft would be produced additionally after the first-phase models reach operational capability. The cost of each KF-X aircraft is estimated to be roughly $50 million +.
In October 2009 a retired general in the South Korean Air Force was arrested for leaking classified documents to Swedish aviation and defence corporation Saab. The general was to have been given a bribe of several hundred thousand dollars for copies of a number of secret documents that he had photographed in the South Korean Defence University. Saab officials denied any involvement.
On 15 July 2010, the Indonesia government agreed to fund 20% of KF-X project cost in return of around 50 planes built for Indonesian Air Force after project completion. In September 2010, Indonesia sent a team of legal and aviation experts to South Korea to discuss copyright issues of the aircraft.
On 7 September 2010, Maj. Gen. Choi Cha-kyu, director general of the aircraft program bureau at the Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that Turkey was interested in joining the program.
On 15 December 2010, a senior Turkish procurement official said that "What we need is a true and equal partnership for the development of a fighter. The problem is that South Korea is not likely to agree to an equal partnership".
In December 2010 the program shifted from a F-16 class fighter to a stealth aircraft in order to respond to North Korean pressure.
On 2 August 2011, a joint research center was opened in Daejeon.