South Korea launches first KF-X fighter prototype, officially named KF-21 Boramae


The KF-21 Boramae during the official rollout of its first working prototype. Photo c/o Airway1.

South Korean aviation company Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has officially rolled-out its first KF-X fighter prototype during ceremonies held on 09 April 2021 at KAI's headquarters at Sacheon.

South Korean President Moon Jae In and Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto were present in the event, which also included the official naming of the aircraft as the KF-21 Boramae. The word "Boramae" means "hawk" in Korean.

During the event, flags of potential users were flashed which included Asia-Pacific countries like South Korea, Indonesia, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Thailand. These countries except for Malaysia are all users of KAI's T-50 Golden Eagle family of lead-in fighter trainer and light combat aircraft.

Eight prototypes, composed of 6 single seater and two twin-seater are expected to be produced and used for ground and flight trials, with an expected serial production starting in 2026. 

KAI hopes to be able to compete at least 40 aircraft by 2028, and a total of 120 aircraft by 2032.

South Korea intends to replace its ageing fleet of McDonnell Douglas F-4D/E Phantom II and Northrop F-5E/F Tiger II fighters with the KF-21, while expecting a major windfall from the export market as well as a cheaper alternative to existing 4.5 and 5th generation fighters.

The new aircraft is slotted between the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) F-35A Lightning II Joint Strike Fighters and older Lockheed Martin F-16C/D and KF-16 Fighting Falcons.

The presence of Indonesia's defense minister also highlights Indonesia's continued participation in the project despite being delayed in its funding obligations to the project, citing financial difficulties.

Indonesia was suppose to pay 20% of the expected US$8 billion development costs, and is expected to acquire at least 50 units of the aircraft once production starts.

The new KF-21 Boramae will be powered by a pair of US-supplied General Electric F414-GE-400K engines, which is similar to the engines used in the Boeing F/A-18E/F Super Hornet, Saab JAS-39E/F Gripen NG and HAL Tejas Mk. 2.

Weapon delivery capability will be made in phases, with the first batch of aircraft called Block 1 only capable of air-to-air combat capability, with the improved Block 2 with air-to-air and air-to-ground capability coming in later. It is expected that current munitions will be compatible with the KF-21, as well as future homegrown-developed ones.

[1] AIN Online
[2] The Drive - The Warzone
[3] Defense News

South Korea launches first KF-X fighter prototype, officially named KF-21 Boramae South Korea launches first KF-X fighter prototype, officially named KF-21 Boramae Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on April 11, 2021 Rating: 5

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