S.Korea targets growing Asian defence market with fighter jets

Mon Aug 19, 2013 6:02am EDT
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By Ju-min Park

SACHEON, South Korea Aug 19 (Reuters) - South Korea, renowned for making hi-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.

South Korea's first home-built light fighter, the FA-50, will roll out on Tuesday from the Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) 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 defence budgets are forecast to increase by 9.3 percent to $1.65 trillion by 2021, according to analysts IHS Janes. Defence budgets in the Asia Pacific are forecast to outstrip North America by 2021, up 35 percent from 2013 levels to $501 billion, it added in its Balance of Trade report in June.

That will pit South Korea's fighters against U.S., 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 U.S. defence 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 ageing Northrop F-5 fighters.   Continued...