(ATTN: ADDS details of KF-X fighter jet in paras 7-14)
By Oh Seok-min
SEOUL, Oct. 14 (Yonhap) -- A variety of state-of-the-art military hardware from both home and abroad will be on display in South Korea this week during a large-scale biennial international aerospace and defense expo, the defense ministry said Monday.
The Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2019 is set to open on Tuesday and run until Sunday at Seoul Airport in Seongnam, south of Seoul, according to the ministry.
The biennial event, which aims to promote the country's aerospace and defense firms as well as to enhance exchanges of global technologies, was first launched in 1996 as the Seoul Air Show and was expanded to incorporate the exhibition of ground-based military assets in 2009.
This year's exhibition, the 12th of its kind, will bring together around 430 defense companies from 34 countries, the most ever for the event. The companies will set up a total of 1,730 booths to promote their products, according to the ministry.
At the venue, various types of aircraft, unmanned aerial vehicles and weapons systems will be on display.
South Korea will exhibit its F-35A stealth fighter jets, which is a centerpiece of the country's strategic targeting scheme, as well as F-15K and KF-16 fighters. It also plans to have the first flying display of its light armed helicopter (LAH), according to the ministry.
Drawing particular attention is a mock-up of South Korea's envisioned indigenous cutting-edge fighter aircraft, which is to be unveiled for the first time.
The 8.8-trillion won (US$7.3 billion) KF-X project began in January 2016 to develop the home-grown fighter to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.
As its design was completed last month, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has been working on a prototype to be rolled out in 2021. The government aims to complete the project by 2026.
According to KAI, the 16.9-meter-long fighter can fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.81 with its flying range reaching 2,900 kilometers.
With a maximum payload of 7,700 kilograms, the KF-X fighter is capable of installing 10 pods for missiles and fuel barrels. It will be able to carry several types of air-to-air missiles, such as Germany's IRIS-T and European developer MBDA's active radar guided Meteor missiles, KAI said.
"The KF-X fighter is categorized as a 4.5-generation jet, though it bears outward similarities to the fifth-generation F-35A," a KAI official said.
"Its operation cost is half that of F-35A aircraft while boasting superior maneuvering capability," he added.
Foreign assets to be on display include Boeing's AH-64 Apache attack helicopter, Saab's maritime patrol aircraft and Airbus' A400M Atlas airlifter, as well as the U.S. military's F-16 Fighting Falcon, KC-135 Stratotankers tanker plane, MQ-1 Predator drone, EA-18G Growler electronic attack fighter and MV-22 vertical-takeoff-and-landing-capable transport aircraft, according to ministry officials.
But the U.S. military decided not to send strategic stealth jets, such as F-22 and F-35A fighters, this time, officials said, though such next-generation weapons were sent to the previous ADEX event. The move appears to be in consideration of the changing security circumstances on the Korean Peninsula, as efforts to denuclearize North Korea have been underway.
"We have a partnership unlike any other, and showcasing America's airpower at this year's Seoul ADEX is a tribute to our continued pledge to promote peace, stability and prosperity on the Korean peninsula," Lt. Gen. Ken Wilsbach, 7th Air Force commander, said.
During the event, visitors can also watch acrobatic displays by the Air Force's Black Eagles flight team and several civilian teams from abroad.
On the sidelines of the exhibition, various meetings and seminars are planned to be attended by more than 95 defense ministers, military leaders and experts from 53 countries, during which they will launch active defense diplomacy and have business consultations regarding their military procurement projects, they added.
"The event is expected to create the best chances for global defense companies to promote their products and for participants to experience the latest technologies in aerospace and other weapons systems fields," the ministry said in a release.
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