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KF-16 Korea Fighter Program [KFP]

In December 1989, the Ministry of National Defense selected the McDonnell Douglas FA-18 to be the second United States designed fighter aircraft to be coproduced in South Korea. Samsung's aerospace division was awarded a contract to manufacture the airframe and engine; Lucky-Goldstar became the subcontractor for the aircraft's avionics. McDonnell Douglas agreed to deliver twelve FA-18s to the South Korean air force in 1993 and to assist Samsung with the later assembly of 108 aircraft in South Korea. As of 1990, the entire FA-18 program was under review because of increased costs.

The Korea Fighter Program [KFP] originally called for the purchase of 12 F-16s from Lockheed Martin, while Samsung was to assemble 36 and produce the last batch of 72 jets under a license agreement with the US company. In order to produce the fighters locally, a joint venture called Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was formed between Korea's three leading aircraft makers - Samsung Aerospace, Daewoo Heavy Industries, and Hyundai Space and Aircraft. The locally produced fighter was dubbed the KF-16.

KAI, designated as prime contractor in 1986, was awarded contract from government in November 1991. Until the last KF-16 delivery, KAI successfully produced and delivered the KF-16 in time to Republic of Korea Air force. Thus, KAI finally achieved the goal of this program: the landmark strengthening of ROKAF combat readiness and domestic aerospace industries development. To implement this program, construction of Sacheon plant, 40 thousand production equipment, 18 thousand planing were done. And over 640 engineers were trained overseas and vast volume of technical data amounting to 430 thousand items were acquired. These production preparation and activities served as precious momentum for drastic national aircraft industry development.

Controversy flared when KFP program was originally winding down in early 1999. Proposals to produce up to 40 additional KF-16s were controversial because some in Korea's airforce -- reportedly including most of the pilots -- opposed the idea. The government decided to allocate a separate budget of $640 million to produce 20 more KF-16 fighters. When KAI delivered the last KF16 to the military in April 2000, the KFP had run for eight years and cost one trillion won.

In an effort to maintain momentum of national industry development as well as to futher reinforce ROKAF capability, KFP-II program for additional prodution of KF-16 was launched in July 2000, of which completion is slated in August 2004. The KFP led Korean aerospace industry to almost same level of advanced overseas countries and laid down the ground for starting of T-50 full scale development

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