SEOUL, July 10 (UPI) -- The South Korean government is reportedly speeding up efforts to indigenously develop and produce a new fighter aircraft.
The Korea Times, citing government sources, said a notice requesting bids for its KFX project could be published as soon as next month.
"Seoul's efforts to accelerate the development of the new fighter underscores growing concern over the potential air security vacuum," the newspaper reported. "The Air Force is expected to face a shortage of around 100 fighters in 2019 when almost all of the F-4s and F-5s will be decommissioned."
Required operational capabilities for the project are expected to be confirmed later this month at a meeting of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Council.
The KFX program, under which the country will acquire 120 fighters, is expected to cost almost $19.7 billion.
The fighters are expected to be deployed after 2023.
"Since February, a Defense Ministry task force consisting of officials from the Joint Chiefs of Staff, Defense Program Acquisition Administration and Air Force has been conducting research for the development project," according to the report.
"The task force has had heated discussions particularly on whether to opt for a single or double-engine platform. Sources said that the task force had chosen a double-engine platform."