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South Korea pursues additional US technologies for KFX programme

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A model of the KAI KFX aircraft, seen at Indo Defence 2016. Source: IHS/Patrick Allen
South Korea is looking to secure additional technologies from the United States to support its programme to develop the Korean Fighter Experimental (KFX) aircraft, it has been disclosed.

The Minister of South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Myoung-jin Chang, said on 21 November that Seoul's primary strategy to securing such technologies is through the country's defence offset policy.

Chang did not reveal details about the technologies being pursued by South Korea but confirmed they are being sought following a decision by the US government earlier this year to deny Seoul's access to four sensitive US technology suites.

DAPA had sought to acquire these technologies through a defence offset package linked to Seoul's purchase of Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighters. The technologies comprised those related to active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars, electro-optical targeting pods, infrared search and track systems, and radio frequency jammers.

Speaking at the Center for Strategic and International Studies (CSIS) in Washington DC, Chang said, "We have made heavy investment in the KFX [but] there are certain technologies we need to implement the programme… We received the US decision that [the transfer] had been denied and that put us in a very tough spot because the research centres in Korea are unable to proceed any further without these needed and essential technologies."

He added, "When it comes to the KFX, there are additional technologies that we are awaiting approval from the US government on, and we are pushing for these to be approved." Chang also said that the additional KFX technologies are being pursued "in the context of offset programmes".

As prime contractor on South Korea's F-35 programme Lockheed Martin has already received approval from the US to transfer to DAPA through offset a range of technologies including those for flight controls, avionics, and unspecified weaponry.

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