On April 9, South Korea unveiled a prototype of the its first next-generation indigenous fighter jet. The new KF-21 Boramae, or “young hawk trained for hunting,” jet was showcased at a rollout ceremony held at the Korea Aerospace Industries headquarters in the southern city of Sacheon.
South Korea has begun its $7.9 billion-won program in order to replace the Air Force’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets in late 2015. The new prototype was created by Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, in Sacheon. The project has an estimated total value of $7.4 billion. Indonesia has promised to fund 20 percent of the total development cost, in exchange for 50 planes, as well as technology transfers.
President Moon Jae-in called the rollout an “opening of a new era” in independent national defense and a “landmark” moment in the history of the aerospace industry. South Korea joined an exclusive club of military aviation giants, becoming the world’s eighth nation to develop an advanced supersonic jet with its own technology.
“The prototype rollout is a major step in the development process as it means we are entering the phase of testing the fighter’s capabilities after actually building what we only had in drawing,” the arms procurement agency said in a release.
The newest twin-engine fighters will come in single- and two-seat versions, depending on the missions. Once operational, the KF-21 jet is expected to be armed with a range of air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles — and possibly even air-launched cruise missiles.
The jet is aimed to fill the gap between the F-35 and the F-16, in terms of capabilities, but is cheaper overall than the US F-35.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration calls the KF-21 a 4.5-generation fighter jet because it lacks, for instance, an internal weapons bay that increases stealthiness. At the same time, it may be able to fly higher and faster than the newest US-made fifth-generation fighter, the F-35, and still carry a robust weapons load.
The KF-21 does exhibit some specific features, like the canted twin tails, fuselage shaping, and edge alignment, among other features, established by the F-22 and F-35. However, reportedly, it does not provide the kind of all-aspect stealth offered by these U.S. fighters.
SouthKorea plans to sign its first KF-21 production contract in 2024. The Korean military has a goal to put 40 units into operation by 2028 and another 80 jets by 2032.
According to the country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration, six KF-21 prototypes are expected to be produced for testing and development, the first three to be completed by the end of this year and the next three in the first half of 2022.
MORE ON THE TOPIC:
- A Flying Disaster: F-35B Jet Shoots Itself With Its Own 25mm Gun
- DARPA Wants Jetpack Soldiers On Modern Battlefield