South Korea completes maiden flight of indigenous KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft


KF-21 taking off during maiden flight on 19 July 2022. Photo c/o ROKAF

South Korean aircraft company Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) together with the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) have successfully carried out the first flight of its homegrown KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft on 19 July 2022.

The aircraft took off at 3:40pm from the ROKAF’s 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, and the flight took around 33 minutes, with the aircraft landing at 4:13pm.

This marks an important milestone in South Korean aviation history, and is a signal of South Korea’s advancement in supersonic fighter aircraft development that only a few countries have achieved.

The KF-21 Boramae is the realization of South Korea’s KFX Fighter Program, which also includes Indonesia as an investing partner, and is believe to cost around KRW8.8 trillion (US$6.7 billion).

The KF-21 is meant to provide South Korea with a new fighter aircraft to replace its ageing fleet of Northrop F-5 Tiger II and McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom fighters from the 1970s, and to counter North Korea’s missile and nuclear threats.

South Korea’s indigenous aviation sector has developed quickly, starting with the roll-out of the first KT-1 Woongbi propeller-driver trainer aircraft in November 2000, and after plans to develop a fighter aircraft capable of exceeding the capabilities of the F-16 Fighting Falcon.

The program was not all smooth sailing, as there were scepticisms on the feasibility of developing its own fighter aircraft from various sectors, citing project cost and acquiring fighter technology.

This was proven when the United States in 2015 rejected South Korean requests for technology transfer for four critical technologies - an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar system, for Infra-red Search and Track (IRST) system, an Electro-Optical Tracking Pod (EO TGP), and on Radio Frequency (RF) Jammer. 

These technologies were eventually developed domestically, with Hanwha Systems developing the AESA radar system and releasing a prototype in August 2020, and developing the IRST and EO TGP systems.

LIG Nex1 is also developing the electronic warfare suite including the RF jammer system.

KAI is expected to start manufacturing of the initial KF-21 Block I units between 2026 to 2028.

[1] Yonhap News

South Korea completes maiden flight of indigenous KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft South Korea completes maiden flight of indigenous KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on July 20, 2022 Rating: 5

No comments