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South Korea confirms Meteor, Iris-T integration on KF-X fighter jet


By Nathan Gain

As negociations with US are facing delay, South Korea is now turning to Europe for its key arms procurement offset programs. Among them, one is focusing on integration of MBDA's Meteor and Diehl Defence's IRIS-T air-to-air missiles on the KF-X next-generation fighter jet.


KF X meteor integration 001 A KF-X mock-up showcased at ADEX 2017 airshow


DAPA on March 5 undisclosed a list of 18 procurement projects eligible for 2018 offsets contracts. "A key goal for these offsets programs is to help local defense companies acquire foreign weapons technology or participate in arms procurement projects," DAPA spokesman Kang Hwan-Seok said to Defense News. "If our small and mid-defense companies, in particular, have the opportunity to join key amrs procurement programs as suppliers, the competitiveness of domestic defense technology could leap forward," he added.

This list of offset deals notably puts the priority on transfering Meteor and IRIS-T technologies for the KF-X fighter jet, which is being localy developed for 2026. In october 2017, the DAPA inked a contract with MBDA to integrate the Meteor on the future twin-engine fighter jet.

The DAPA initially planned to equip the aircraft with US-made missile, such as the AIM-120 and the AIM-9X air-to-air missiles. But the US government still has to approve the missiles integration on the KF-X.

"Now we plan to arm the KF-X with European missiles due to US export license problems," a DAPA official who spoke on condition of anonymity explained to Defense News.

MBDA's Meteor is a next generation, Beyond Visual Range Air-to-Air Missile (BVRAAM) being integrated in Eurofighter Typhoon, Rafale and F-35 Lightning II fighter jets.

South Korea launched the KF-X project in 2015 with the aim of producing more than 120 cutting-edge fighters to replace its aging jet fleet of F-4s and F-5s.

It plans to pour a total of 18 trillion won (US$16 bn) into the project by 2026, with the production of six prototype jets scheduled to begin in July next year.