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First engines delivered for South Korean Future Fighter Program

The full-scale mockup of the KF-X was unveiled at ADEX, seen here with RoKAF crew for size comparison. (Photo: Chen Chuanren)

In a major step forward, GE Aviation has delivered the first F414-GE-400K engine in May to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for South Korea’s next-generation indigenous fighter, known as the KF-X.

In a major step forward, GE Aviation has delivered the first F414-GE-400K engine in May to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for South Korea’s next-generation indigenous fighter, known as the KF-X.

KAI is developing the multi-role KF-X aircraft for the South Korean Air Force, which intends to replace its fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighters with the new jet in a $7.4 billion program.

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“GE is thrilled to reach this important milestone in the KF-X program,” said Al DiLibero, general manager of GE’s Medium Combat and Trainer Engines department.

“Our success so far on this program reflects the strong relationship between the [Republic of Korea Air Force] ROKAF, our South Korean industry partners and GE Aviation, and the long and successful history of our engines powering ROKAF aircraft."

South Korea’s KAI selected GE Aviation in May 2016 to supply F414-GE-400K engines for the KF-X fighter.

The development program is scheduled to be completed in 2026, which includes the production of 15 F414 flight test engines and six prototype fighters by 2021. Flight testing will occur in 2023. 120 KF-X aircraft are scheduled for production serving the South Korean armed forces. GE Aviation will provide 240 F414 production engines plus spares.

GE’s F404 engines currently power South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle, a high-performance supersonic trainer developed with KAI for the ROKAF. GE’s T700 turboshaft engines power the Korean utility helicopter Surion. Additionally, GE’s F110 engines power the ROKAF’s F-15K aircraft.

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GE’s F414 engine went into service in 1998 and has flown more than 4.6 million flight hours with more than 1,750 engines delivered. In addition to the KF-X, the F414 powers Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet and EA-18G Growler, Saab’s JAS 39E/F Gripen, India’s Tejas Mark 2, and Lockheed Martin and NASA’s X-59 Quiet Supersonic Transport. 

The KF-X development is being co-funded by Indonesia.

Indonesia signed onto the program in 2010, agreeing to pay for 20 per cent of the development costs in exchange for one prototype aircraft, design participation, technical data and production sharing.

Since then, however, Indonesia has missed a number of payments amid a budget crunch, with newspaper The Korea Herald reporting in late May that as of April, Indonesia owes $415 million in overdue payments to the program.

First engines delivered for South Korean Future Fighter Program
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