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South Korea's fighter jet program being offered European engine

Eurojet Turbo GmbH’s chief executive said Thursday it could manufacture its EJ200 engine without U.S. components.

By Elizabeth Shim
South Korea's fighter jet program being offered European engine
The Korean Fighter Experimental project is South Korea's plan to replace 120 older planes with new aircraft, and the program could overcome a U.S. technology ban with a European package on offer. Photo courtesy of Republic of Korea air force

SEOUL, Oct. 15 (UPI) -- South Korea's indigenous fighter jet program could overcome a technology transfer issue if Seoul elects a European contractor specializing in jet engines.

Eurojet Turbo GmbH's chief executive said Thursday it could manufacture its EJ200 without U.S. components, thus enabling South Korea to export future fighter jets, Yonhap reported.

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In September, Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration had said the United States had barred U.S. contractor Lockheed Martin from sharing some of the technologies that include an active electronically scanned array and a radio frequency jammer.

The dispute over technology transfer issues had threatened to stall the $6.7 billion project, but strategically valuable defense technology can be banned from trade under the International Traffic in Arms Regulations, or ITAR.

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Eurojet is offering Seoul a package that includes technology that can integrate a "4.5 generation" engine into the fighter jet.

"We have bundled this package in a way we can make this engine ITAR free in order to support the exportability of the KF-X program to third-party countries," said Eurojet chief executive Clemens Linden.

The EJ200 is the engine used in the Eurofighter Typhoon. Eurojet was co-founded by four European firms in 1986, including power systems company Rolls Royce, South Korean newspaper Kyunghyang Shinmun reported.

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Lee Doherty, senior vice president of Eurojet, said, "If South Korea adopts the EJ200 engine, it can benefit from the system development, production, operation and maintenance processes that come with the product, and gain a strong competitive edge in the global market."

Linden said the EJ200 comes equipped with a condition-based maintenance feature that tells the operator when to check the modules for servicing.

The Korean Fighter Experimental project is South Korea's plan to replace 120 older planes with new aircraft developed through one of the country's biggest defense projects.

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