The government vowed Monday to press ahead with its KF-X project to develop indigenous fighter jets by 2025 as scheduled, despite the failure to receive four core technologies related to F-35 stealth fighters from Lockheed Martin.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it will establish an organization dedicated to managing the fighter jet project within this year.
"DAPA is currently conducting consultation with relevant ministries about the establishment of an organization in full charge of the KF-X project," an official told reporters.
The move comes amid growing concerns that the 8.5 trillion won project may not proceed as scheduled after the U.S. government refused in April to allow Lockheed to transfer four core technologies to Korea for security reasons.
The technology transfer was included in an offset program when the nation signed a 7.3 trillion won deal with the U.S. defense giant in September last year to buy 40 F-35s as the nation's next-generation fighter.
The KF-X project calls for developing fighter jets by 2025 to replace an aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s. The nation is planning to build 120 jets. Mass production is expected to require an additional 10 trillion won.
The four technologies — the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track (IRST), electronic optics targeting pod (EOTGP) and RF jammer — are at the heart of the jet development.
DAPA said it will take all possible measures and gather all knowledge, skills and abilities from relevant ministries as well as research centers to respond to questions raised so far over the KF-X project.
The state-run procurement agency stressed that it will preferentially push for the domestic development of the four technologies as well as the integration technology for them.
"If necessary, we will also seek cooperation with other foreign companies," the official said.
For its part, the Agency for Defense Development (ADD) is setting up a program to move up the time frame for the development of the nation's own AESA radar, the official said, noting that the timing would be brought forward from 2020-2024 to 2017-2021.
"As of now, the nation can develop the hardware for the ASEA radar," the official said. "Regarding the software, we will secure algorithms from foreign companies and develop the source code domestically."
The nation has already accumulated 90 percent of the integration technology for the radar while integrating one with the indigenous FA-50 light attack fighter, the officials said.
DAPA also vowed to transparently disclose major issues related to the KF-X project to the National Assembly and the press, apparently mindful of allegations that it lied about the terms of the F-35 contract with Lockheed as it said last year that it could receive all the core technologies from the company.