South Korea will select a foreign jet engine maker to power the country's first indigenously-developed combat aircraft by next month, the defense procurement agency said Wednesday.
European jet engine giant Eurojet Turbo GmbH is competing against U.S. rival General Electric (GE) for the South Korean deal to procure engines for its high-profile indigenous fighter jet project, known as the Korean Fighter Experimental, or KF-X.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) is currently reviewing the two engine makers' offers with the goal of choosing between them, with a contract to be inked in June, a DAPA official told reporters.
In the process, the DAPA will compare the two engine makers' technology levels, technology transferability as well as the price, the official said.
Under the 18 trillion won ($15.2 billion)-worth project, South Korea seeks to develop and manufacture 120 multi-role twin-engine combat jets by mid-2020 to replace its U.S.-made fleet of F-4 and F-5 aircraft. The planes will be the first fighter jets ever to be designed and produced from scratch inside the country.
South Korea had sought to tap into 25 different fighter jet technologies owned by U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin in an off-set deal signed alongside the country's purchase of the F-35 in 2014. The fifth-generation fighter is made by the U.S. firm.
But, the U.S. government ruled out four of the 25 U.S. technologies as not exportable last year, including the sensitive technology to build active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
For the remaining 21 technologies, the U.S. government issued its export license in November last year, and currently 12 technicians from Lockheed Martin are in Seoul to help with the project, the official also said.
The DAPA is committed to developing the AESA radar on its own, but it does not rule out the option of buying it from outside the country, the official added. (Yonhap)