From Aviation Week and Space Technology 2009 September

South Korea will focus on developing a Generation-4.5 fighter under a proposed program that previously aimed at an equivalent of the fifth-generation Lockheed Martin F-35.

The government is due to decide in November whether to proceed with the program, called KFX, which industrialists hope will meet the air force’s distant F-XX fighter requirement for the 2020s.

Lockheed Martin and Boeing are battling for another prize called F-X Phase III, under which the air force proposes to buy 60 fighters next decade.

Downgrading of ambitions for KFX follows condemnation last year of the original specification from the Korea Development Institute state think tank.

An officially commissioned study from another think tank now urges that Gen-4.5 technology would meet South Korean needs.

If KFX goes ahead, the next major decision would be whether the fighter should have a new design or be an upgrade of a type already in production. Boeing, Lockheed Martin, EADS (representing Eurofighter), Saab and Korea Aerospace Industries have submitted proposals.

With this program, South Korea is facing an especially stark choice between its industrial and strategic interests.

On the one hand, it wants to maintain a fighter-development capability that it built up with the T-50 supersonic trainer.

And yet, the South Korean air force, more than many others, faces a serious military threat and needs to field the most effective equipment its budget can provide.

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