State arms agency to sign KF-21 mass-production contract next year
SEOUL, March 23 (Yonhap) -- South Korea's state arms procurement agency is seeking to sign a contract next year to mass-produce the homegrown KF-21 Boramae fighter, its officials said Thursday, in what could be a key milestone for the jet acquisition project.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) briefed lawmakers during a session of the National Assembly's defense committee on the development plan, including its push to complete a "provisional" combat suitability test on the jet in May this year.
Under the plan, DAPA is to ink the mass-production contract in the first half of next year after conducting a feasibility study on the production from May to August this year and finalizing the mass production plan in December.
The provisional combat suitability test has been rescheduled to May from November as DAPA has "optimized" testing and evaluation plans, officials said.
The provisional testing scheme has been introduced to allow weapons developers to secure mass-production budgets even before prototypes meet all combat requirements in an effort to accelerate the overall production process. The Joint Chiefs of Staff is to carry out the test.
DAPA also told lawmakers that it plans to deploy the first KF-21 aircraft in the latter half of 2026.
The high-profile fighter project has made a series of milestones, including achieving supersonic speeds in January.
Launched in 2015, the KF-21 project worth 8.8 trillion won (US$6.77 billion) seeks to develop the 4.5th-generation fighter to replace the country's aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets waiting to be decommissioned following decades of service.
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