South Korea kicked off wind tunnel testing as it moves forward to finalize the design of its next-generation jet fuselage by mid-2018, the aircraft's local developers said Wednesday.
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), the country's sole aircraft manufacturer, and the Korea Aerospace Research Institute said they started the first phase of wind tunnel testing in a bid to lay out the design for the Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) program.
The KF-X project, which will cost 18 trillion won (US$15.3 billion) of the taxpayers money, will call for the building of some 120 twin-engine combat jets. Seoul aims to deploy the new planes starting in the mid-2020s to replace its fleet of vintage F-4s and F-5s.
A wind tunnel test assesses aerodynamic forces that an object can withstand as well as overall flight properties by letting air move past it.
Officials said that they will conduct a combined 13,000 hours of wind tunnel testing with the finalized design to be penned in about two years time.
The testing is part of a broader effort by Seoul to build a jet fighter that is expected to boost the capabilities of its Air Force.
In May, South Korea picked U.S. company General Electric (GE) as the preferred bidder to supply engines for the fighter jets, while a month earlier it tapped South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha Thales as the primary negotiation partner to build active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.
South Korea had initially planned to secure 25 fighter jet technologies from U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin in an offset deal linked to Seoul's purchase of 40 of the company's F-35 Lightning II fighters in 2014.
But the U.S. government refused last year to approve the export of four core technologies, including those related to the AESA radar, forcing Seoul to find an alternative supplier.