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Korea Air Line and Airbus to team for South Korea's KF-X indigenous fighter development program

05 February Source: Yonhap

South Korea's top air carrier Korean Air Line Co. plans to sign a partnership agreement with Europe's Airbus this week to jointly bid for Seoul's indigenous fighter development program, officials said Thursday. Codenamed KF-X, the 8.5 trillion won ($8.3 billion) project calls for South Korea to develop and produce some 120 fighter jets of the F-16 class to replace its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s.

"The two sides reached a verbal agreement earlier this week to jointly bid for the development project," an informed official said on condition of anonymity.

After signing a memorandum of understanding this week, Korean Air and Airbus Defense and Space are scheduled to place a bid next week, he added.

The country's state arms procurement agency, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration, is scheduled to close the bidding process on Monday. It will choose a preferred bidder next month before a final selection around July.

Industry watchers said the duo is expected to vie fiercely with the team of Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, and Lockheed Martin of the U.S.

KAI has a technical edge over Korean Air based upon its experience developing the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer and the country's utility helicopter, Surion, while the latter has larger investment capacity, they added.

"Airbus would be able to complement Korean Air in terms of technical issues. The South Korean military decided to use the twin-engine platform over the single-engine one, and Airbus is familiar with the platform after building the multi-role fighter, Eurofighter," another official said.

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