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Indonesia joins S Korea's fighter aircraft programme


The F-5 fighters of South Korea. The new KF-X fighters are slated to replace the ageing fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters.

SEOUL (AFP): Indonesia on Thursday agreed to join a South Korean project to develop a new fighter aircraft which has been delayed for years by technical and budget problems.

Indonesia will acquire about 50 of the KF-X fighters in return for shouldering 20 per cent of the development costs in the multi-million dollar project, the defence ministry said.

The two sides also agreed to work together in production and marketing.

The deal was signed in Seoul by Byun Moo-Keun, commissioner for the ministry's Defence Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), and his Indonesian counterpart Eris Herryanto.

South Korea launched the project in 2000 to produce home-built fighters equipped with stealth capabilities.

After delays due to questions about its economic and technical feasibility, President Lee Myung-Bak agreed in January to push ahead with the project amid growing tensions with North Korea.

South Korea plans to decommission all of its ageing F-4 and F-5 fighter aircraft by 2020. Yonhap news agency said around 170 F-5s operate in South Korea. The planes, first flown in South Korea in 1975, have suffered a number of crashes.

“Exploratory development will start next year, and we plan to produce the new fighter jets after a final feasibility study in late 2012,” a DAPA spokesman told AFP.

“We need foreign partners who will transfer technology and key parts,” he said, declining to give details such as total costs.

On top of the KF-X project, South Korea will also continue to buy advanced fighters from foreign manufacturers, the spokesman said.

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