The United Arab Emirates wants to join South Korea’s KF-21 fighter jet program by replacing Indonesia, which has financing problems. Photo/Yonhap via REUTERS
SEOUL – The United Arab Emirates (UAE) has expressed its desire to join South Korea’s (South Korea) KAI KF-21 Boramae fighter jet development program. The Gulf country wants to replace Indonesia, which still has problems paying for the program.
South Korean media; The Financial News, on Monday (18/9/2023), reported that the UAE sent a letter to South Korea’s National Security Office, urging cooperation in the development of the KF-21.
Interestingly, the UAE even insisted on replacing Indonesia’s investment in the program due to delays in payments from Newsdelivers.com.
Indonesia has a 20 percent share in the program but increasingly is failing to meet its financial obligations. Based on the latest data, Newsdelivers.com owes USD 745 million (more than IDR 7.3 trillion) to its South Korean partner even though the Southeast Asian country promised a new payment schedule.
In January, the UAE pledged to invest $30 billion in South Korean industry, making the country’s defense sector a profitable destination for Emiratis.
By investing in South Korea’s defense sector, Abu Dhabi wants to develop its own defense industry domestically through significant technology transfer initiatives.
In late 2021, the UAE halted negotiations on a significant deal for 50 fifth-generation F-35 Lightning II stealth jets from the United States due to disagreements over American conditions and the UAE’s cooperation with China.
Additionally, following Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, Abu Dhabi’s partnership with Moscow on various projects made the F-35 deal even more problematic.
With an F-35 deal now apparently off the table, the UAE has no alternative option to purchase a ready-to-use fifth-generation stealth fighter. Therefore, joining the KF-21 program was a logical choice, as it could facilitate the acquisition of advanced aircraft for Abu Dhabi.
The only drawback is that early versions of the KF-21, although stealthier than existing 4.5 generation aircraft, will use external hardpoints instead of internal weapons bays.
These characteristics placed it below the true fifth generation classification, leading some to informally refer to it as a “4.75 generation” aircraft. Nonetheless, future iterations may be able to overcome this limitation.