ROK’s Forgotten KF-16 Fighter May Soon Become Trash

Article from SBS: [September 8, 2015]

Forgotten KF-16 fighter will soon become ‘trash’

The most important aspect of a battle is distinguishing allies from enemies. Fighters encounter the same issue. Fighters send out unique electric signals to tell apart friend and foe. However, as the development of this Identification, Friend or Foe (IFF) system for a majority of the KF-16 fighters, the centerpiece of the Republic of Korea Air Force, is delayed, they risk no longer being deployable from 2020 on.

There are 134 KF-16 fighters in the Republic of Korea Air Force.

Starting in 2014, the Air Force has set aside one trillion eight hundred billion won [1,515,672,000 dollars] to refit around ten fighters each year.

Parts of the fighter to be overhauled include the mission computer, Aegis Combat System, early warning system, tactical data link, and IFF system.

BAE, the multinational defense contractor tasked with the overhaul, has stopped work while demanding an additional eight hundred billion won [673,632,000 dollars].

The United States and other allied countries will adjust their IFF systems from mode 4 to mode 5 in 2020, rendering any unfit KF-16’s untouchable.

Experts say that the KF-16 will lose the function allowing it to distinguish allied and enemy planes at 100 to 200 kilometers away through electric signals.

The Air Force fears that even if the overhaul resumes next year, 80 percent of the 134 KF-16 fighters will not have properly adjusted IFF systems by 2020.

You could remove the IFF update from the overhaul process and complete it separately, but separating out tasks lengthens the amount of time a fighter is left idle, which is also far from ideal.

Without the tactical data link, data cannot be immediately received from the Aegis Combat System or early warning system, another key problem.

Some within the Air Force are advocating to delay the overhaul process and simply focus on updating the IFF system.

Comments from Naver:


Abolish the Ministry of Gender Equality and use its money.


So the invisible hand is looking to con us out of eight billion won


This is why the KF-X program must succeed.


Let’s put some effort into developing fighters in the first place…


Remove the useless leadership first. That will be faster.


Corruption in the defense industry should be treated with the death penalty. Do you guys want to lose our country and become servants again?


We paid 10 times the market price for a submarine that can’t dive and used it as a boat! We paid much more than market price for an anti-submarine aircraft that America threw out! What more needs to be said? Look forward to further waste in the future!


Try buying a Eurofighter for that much, they’ll cut the price in half


To put it frankly, we’re at the mercy of America’s will… let’s use the Eurofighter instead, and stop defense industry corruption from eating away at our finances.


I can’t stop cursing. Where is all that money going? This is just like Cambodia and the Philippines.


Let’s make our own. It’s just like with cars, repairing a foreign car is too expensive. Let’s make our own already.


We’re lucky that the North Korean Air Force is falling behind, otherwise they would have gained air supremacy and wreaked havoc.


Well look at that, they do everything they can to get a good price for the fighter, and then request even more money for an upgrade when we renew the contract.


America really sees Korea as a gullible customer, selling an anti-submarine warcraft that was neglected in the desert for twice the price and conning us with this as well. We have to stop buying American fighters for them to learn. Just an ally in words, they really think we’re a pushover.


Use this as an opportunity to let them know that we don’t need to buy American fighters anymore. The Eurofighter is just as good, and it’s still compatible with American equipment. America is part of NATO, after all.

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  • Guest

    Seeing how the ROK plans on purchasing 40 F-35s set to be delivered in 2018-2021 and acquire 120 or so KAI KF-X not long after, perhaps they’re thinking of slowly retiring the KF-16s currently in service?

    • x1sfg

      Ah, the F-35, one of the worst managed defense projects in US history.

  • commander

    Original Text:

    “미국과 동맹국들의 피아식별장치가 2020년부터 모드 4에서 모드 5로 바뀌는데 KF-16은 손도 못 댈 상황이 돼버렸습니다.”

    Christopher Shea’s translation:

    “The United States and other allied countries will adjust their IFF systems from mode 4 to mode 5 in 2020, rendering any unfit KF-16’s untouchable.”

    “rendering any unfit KF-16’s untouchable.” is sounds unnatural in eyes of native Koreans.

    Properly taking into account contextual understanding of previous paragraphs, one of possible better translations for the above text is as follows:

    Possible Better Translation:

    “While IFF systems employed by the United States and its other allies will be upgraded from level 4 to 5, the budget restraint South Korea faces puts its fleet of KF-16 warplanes out of such a trend.”

    Original Text:

    [손인춘/새누리당 의원, 국회 국방위 : 피아식별장치를 성능개량사업에서 빼 따로 가면 될 것 같지만, 이것 따로 저것 따로 공사하면 전투기를 놀리는 기간이 길어져서 그것도 안 되는 일입니다.]

    Christopher Shea’s Translation:

    You could remove the IFF update from the overhaul process and complete it separately, but separating out tasks lengthens the amount of time a fighter is left idle, which is also far from ideal.

    Possible Better Translation:

    [ Rep. Son In-chun, a National Assembly defense committe member] “Some may say the upgrade for our IFF system can be done independently from the present project to improve KF-16 capabilities, but without undertaking an integrated approach in our effort to upgrade KF-16 capabilities, it will be more more time consuming and our warplanes will not function properly as much time. That’s exactly why we can’t afford to it.”

    Some parts of the translated article, without recourse to the orginial text, are hard to understand.

    • Christopher Shea


      Thank you for you detailed comment, and please excuse the late reply. As mentioned in my comment above to David, KoreaBang has been going through some rough patches lately.

      Upon review, I agree with your first critique. I clearly misinterpreted the phrase “손도 못 댈 상황”. As for the second critique, I agree that the speaker’s name should have been included, but stand by my translation. I feel that I captured the same meaning more concisely.

      I’ll forward those changes to our editors. Feel free to point out any errors you find in the future in the comments or through email at [email protected].

      • commander

        I discovered your reply of late.

        With respect to your defense that your version about the lawmaker’s words is succint and bears the same meaning, I’d like to point out that the Korean language, like many Asian languages, puts a huge emphasis on contextual understanding, standing in marked contrast to English, which tend to focus on who says what where and when, plus why.

        This difference means that, although translation needs to be strictly confined to what the original text delievers, sometimes the elaboration for easier comprehension is required inso far as to it does not change the original meaning.

        Of course, it does not insist that my version is better. But it would suffice to say that literal translation could risk looking unnatural from time to time to both readers using Korean or English.

  • David

    So Koreabang has gone the way of China Smack? You only get one or two articles a month now?

    • Christopher Shea

      Hi David,

      I’m really sorry about the decline in content over the past couple months. As a translator for this site, I have been trying to my best to post weekly. Unfortunately, the site doesn’t generate enough revenue to pay translators, so everything I do is purely out of my own interest. When my full-time job gets hectic, I have to prioritize that over voluntary translation here, preventing me from posting each week. The inability to pay also hinders our ability to find and keep other translators, though we do have a few others helping me out.

      In addition, our editors, who are compensated to some extent, have also become very busy over the summer with their full-time jobs, rendering them unable to edit and publish articles as fast as they’d like.

      Regardless of the circumstances, however, the lack of articles is indeed frustrating, and I ask for your patience as we try to fix the situation.

      • David

        I absolutely understand. I want all of translators to know that I appreciate all the work you do.

  • nineteen85


    We paid 10 times the market price for a submarine that can’t dive and used it as a boat!

    What is this guy talking about? I find it absolutely hilarious but can’t find any related articles on Google.

  • homie

    ROK is already an Chinese ally, so there should be no problems with leaving this as it is. Unless you want to throw extra money at BAE

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