South Korea, renowned for making high-tech consumer devices, cars and ships, now has its sights on exporting fighter jets amid a projected sharp increase in demand for military weapons in Asia over the next decade.
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) on Tuesday rolled out the nation’s first home-built light fighter — the FA-50 — from its assembly plant in the southern city of Sacheon.
KAI officials say that they aim to sell about 1,000 FA-50s and T-50s overseas over the next three decades, and are eyeing markets in Southeast Asia, Eastern Europe and the Americas.
“Countries in Southeast Asia and South America are finding FA-50s enormously attractive,” Park Jeong-soo, a senior official from KAI’s external affairs department, told reporters.
Global defense budgets are forecast to increase by 9.3 percent to US$1.65 trillion by 2021, according to analysts IHS Janes.
Defense budgets in the Asia-Pacific region are forecast to outstrip that in North America by 2021, up 35 percent from this year’s levels to US$501 billion, it added in its Balance of Trade report in June.
That will pit South Korea’s fighters against US, European, Chinese and Russian companies in an increasingly crowded — yet still lucrative — market.
South Korea is also planning to develop a much larger KF-X fighter with the help of US defense contractors, although that has been delayed by budgetary constraints.
The first FA-50 is part of an order for 20 fighters by South Korea’s air force, which will use them to replace its aging Northrop F-5 fighters.
Negotiations are ongoing with the Philippines, with a local online news outlet reporting that a US$460 million deal with Manila for 12 FA-50s could be completed this month.
Officials at the Sacheon headquarters of KAI declined to comment due to the sensitivity of the matter.
KAI chief executive officer Ha Sung-yong said that while South Korea’s conventional export markets such as cars and shipbuilding faced tough competition, its aerospace industry should grow strongly.
“Now that KAI has established the groundwork with its own technology, it is necessary to grow the industry ... by contributing to the national military’s force integration and creating jobs and exports,” Ha said.
The FA-50 is based on the T-50 advanced jet trainer, which is already in service in South Korea and was developed together with US defense contractor Lockheed Martin.
The T-50 can also be fitted with weapons under its wings and used as a light attack aircraft. Indonesia was the first export customer with a 2011 order for 16 T-50s, and Iraq is in negotiations to buy 24.
KAI and Lockheed are gearing up for a lucrative US Air Force competition for at least 300 aircraft and maybe hundreds more worth several billion dollars, a deal that one South Korean officer called the “jackpot.”
RECRUITMENT: The latest hiring drive — for fabs in Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan — aims to catch up with growth in the company and new technology development Taiwan Semiconductor Manufacturing Co (TSMC, 台積電) yesterday unveiled a plan to hire 9,000 people this year in the latest round of recruitment as the chipmaker races to boost capacity to alleviate a chip crunch and safeguard its technology advantage. TSMC’s talent recruitment this year might be the most ambitious in its history, while last year’s drive of 8,000 added recruits doubled the 4,000 new hires that it averaged over the preceding few years. The latest drive — for fabs in Hsinchu, Taichung and Tainan — aims to catch up with growth in the company and new technology development, the Hsinchu-based chipmaker said. The
GlobalWafers Co (環球晶圓), the world’s No. 3 supplier of silicon wafers, yesterday said that it has acquired a 70.27 percent stake in German competitor Siltronic AG, in a public bid that ended four days ago. With the acquisition of a controlling stake in Siltronic, the Taiwanese company is to become the world’s second-largest silicon wafer supplier. Last month, GlobalWafers secured more than 50 percent of Siltronic shares with an offer of 4.35 billion euros (US$5.2 billion) in a public tender that was due to end on Feb. 10, but the acceptance period was extended until Monday. In a statement released yesterday, the Hsinchu-based
Clean energy use and reduction of carbon dioxide emissions are the common consciousness of all countries in the world. Among them, the introduction of renewable energy storage systems and the promotion of electric vehicles are the unanimous implementation of governments and enterprises around the world. The most critical strategic component is the lithium ion battery. Whoever has a higher energy density, lower cost, and higher safety lithium battery will control the development trend of this wave of safer lithium battery technology. All-solid-state batteries are a goal that everyone is striving to pursue. However, the stable and large scale production of solid-state
CHASING AFTER THE US: China is scrambling to cut its dependence on the West for crucial components such as computer chips, an issue that has become more urgent China pledged to boost spending and drive research into cutting-edge chips and artificial intelligence (AI) in its latest five-year targets, laying out a technological blueprint to vie for global influence with the US. Chinese Premier Li Keqiang (李克強) singled out key areas in which to achieve “major breakthroughs in core technologies,” including high-end semiconductors, operating systems, computer processors and cloud computing — areas in which US firms now hold sway. Beijing would also aim to get 56 percent of the country on faster 5G networks. Nationwide research and development spending is to increase by more than 7 percent annually, which “is expected to