South Korea to start testing KF-X fighter jet prototype

KF-21 Boromae

South Korea’s KF-21 Boromae rolling out ceremony on April 9, 2021 (Image: MBC News live stream)

South Korea has completed the first prototype of its KF-X fighter jet, signalling the beginning of a five year testing program.

The KF-X fighter, development of which started in 2015, was unveiled in a ceremony at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in the city of Saechon. The aircraft has been renamed the KF-21 Boramae.

Ground testing of the prototype will start this year with the first flight planned for 2022. KAI plans to build six prototypes and start manufacturing the fighter in 2026.

According to Reuters, KAI is planning for 40 KF-21s to be in service by 2028 and 140 by 2032.

The KF-21 is a 4.5 generation fighter jet that will replace the Korean air Force’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets and be exported. The 8.8 trillion-won (US$7.9 billion) program is being part funded by Indonesia. 

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said, “The release of the prototype is a meaningful achievement of the development process in that it realizes and will evaluate the performance of the fighters which has only previously existed as a drawing.”

The KF-21 can carry a maximum payload of 7,700kg  and has 10 hardpoints for missiles and other weapons. It is designed to have a top speed of 2,200km/h (1,400mph) and a range of 2,900km (1,800 miles).

In 2016 General Electric was selected as the preferred bidder to supply its F414 engines for the fighter jet.  South Korean defense manufacturer Hanwha Thales is building its active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar.


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Ben has worked as a journalist and editor, covering technology, engineering and industry for the last 20 years. Initially writing about subjects from nuclear submarines to autonomous cars to future design and manufacturing technologies, he was editor of a leading UK-based engineering magazine before becoming editor of Aerospace Testing in 2017.

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