SEOUL AIR SHOW: Eurofighter shares KF-X vision
South Korea needs help developing KF-X. Its industry feels up to the challenge of developing the new fighter's flight controls, aerodynamics, sensors and weapons. But it wants an industrial partner to transfer technology for the engines, sensor fusion software and systems integration.
This presents a certain dilemma for potential US partners. How much do Boeing and Lockheed Martin give up for a piece of the KF-X programme, knowing South Korea's fighter ambitions means losing a historically reliable customer and possibly creating a future competitor?
That's where Eurofighter comes in. The company presented itself at the Seoul Air Show as an "eager" supporter of South Korea's next-generation fighter programme. Accordingly, Eurofighter was pleased to present its vision for KF-X on 21 October during a seminar dedicated to the programme. Neither Boeing nor Lockheed accepted invitations to present at the same event.
Eurofighter's concept proposes a clean-sheet, twin-engine design with a conventional, single tail. The latter feature differs from South Korean concepts showing twin-canted tails. The design goal is a medium-class fighter to replace the Asian fleet of McDonnell F-4 Phantoms and Northrop F-5 Tigers.
SEOUL AIR SHOW: KF-X vision unveiled
In a seminar today at the Seoul Air Show, South Korean government officials outlined the strategy and plans for the KF-X, a twin-engined stealth fighter with a design goal of achieving manoeuvrability, speed and range performance between a Lockheed Martin F-16 and a Boeing F-15.
South Korea wants to develop the KF-X over the next nine years, with mass production beginning after 2020. Indonesia has already joined the programme, and talks with Turkey are continuing.
If developing an all-new stealth fighter is not enough of a challenge, South Korea also intends to equip the KF-X with a set of all-new weapons, including indigenous missiles in the Raytheon AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM class, guided bombs and an anti-ship missile. South Korean officials have released a development budget estimate of about US$5 billion, which seems (wildly?) optimistic.
KF-X has previously been pictured with canards, but that concept was nowhere in today's presenations. Instead, the KF-X appears to have morphed into a more conventional fighter. It appears similar a two-engine variant of the Lockheed F-35. This is Korea's vision for the KF-X. Eurofighter presented an alternative vision of KF-X, which I will present later.
SEOUL AIR SHOW: Sneak-peek of K-FX cockpit
Tucked into a corner of the Samsung Thales exhibit booth was a small room labeled "Next Generation Aircraft Display". Inside was a demonstration cockpit, and a clue to one of the key pieces of South Korea's indigenous K-FX stealth fighter.
An attendant who spoke only slightly more English than we can speak Korean seemed to express that this was a new KF-16 cockpit. But the image on the large area display showing a fighter with canards and a canted tail gave the secret away. This was the locally developed cockpit concept for the fighter South Korea hopes to develop by 2020.