Thirty-two Indonesian engineers who left a joint aircraft development project in South Korea last year over salary issues are set to rejoin the program this month.
A total of 114 Indonesian engineers working on the KF-21 project in Sacheon left the country in March after Indonesia stopped their payments, Yonhap News Agency revealed. The remaining engineers are expected to return to South Korea by the end of this year.
According to the outlet, the engineers were apprehensive that their country was quitting the program, adding that Jakarta stopped making payments on the project after investing 227.2 billion South Korean won ($195 million). The country still needs to pay around 700 billion won ($600 million).
Indonesia Reaffirms Commitment to Project
The engineers, meanwhile, agreed to return to South Korea after the Indonesian government reaffirmed its commitment to the project and requested Seoul to facilitate their return.
South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) revealed that Seoul accepted the request despite the unresolved payment issue.
The two countries sought to resolve the payment issues through negotiations. However, meetings could not take place due to the pandemic, DAPA added.
“We will do our best to hold working-level talks as soon as possible and conclude the discussions on the payment issue,” Jung Kwang-sun, heading the KF-21 program, said.
The KF-21 Boramae (“Hunting Hawk”) is a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft manufactured by Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI).
In the joint project to develop the aircraft, South Korea holds an 80 percent stake while Indonesia’s share is 20 percent.
The KF-21 is a twin-engine aircraft and will be available in single-seat and two-seat version.
Mass Production From 2028
South Korean President Moon Jae-in revealed while unveiling the aircraft prototype in Sacheon in April this year that mass production will begin in 2028. He added that by 2032, 120 aircraft should be deployed in the air force.
The first flight is scheduled for next year, DAPA revealed.
The aircraft will replace the South Korean Air Force’s “nearly 170-200 F-5E/F Tiger light fighters around 70 beefier 1960s-era F-4E Phantom heavy fighters,” according to National Interest.
The outlet wrote that the aircraft is billed to have a speed of Mach 1.83 and a stated radar cross-section of 1.1 square meters.