After five years of development, Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) unveiled this Friday the first prototype of the KF-21 Boramae (young hawk) at its headquarters in Sacheon.
The KF-X program is the Asian country’s first attempt to produce an advanced indigenous fighter after the development of the KA-50, a training and light fighter jet.
The KF-21 bears a striking resemblance to the USAF’s F-22 Raptor, but its stealth capability is quite limited, hence it is called a 4.5 generation fighter by KAI.
The new fighter plane is larger than an F-35 Lightining II, but uses two GE F414 afterburner engines manufactured under license. The aircraft has a maximum payload of 17,000 lbs and a maximum takeoff weight of 56,400 lb.
The KF-21 can fly up to Mach 1.8 and is equipped with AESA radar, advanced avionics and precision weapons loaded on its 10 external hard points – the KAI jet has no internal weapon compartment.
Partnership with Indonesia
The KF-X program aims to replace the old F-5 and F-4 that have been flying on ROKAF (Republic of Korea Air Force) for decades. The goal is to produce 120 aircraft by 2032, 40 of them in 2028, when the fighter is expected to enter service.
The first flight of the prototype is planned for 2022 and will be followed by five other test planes in addition to two ground test units.
The project, which has already consumed more than $ 8 billion, has the partnership of Indonesia, however, the country has so far not fulfilled its part of the agreement, to bear 20% of the costs of the program. Rumors suggest that Jakarta may abandon the KF-21 in favor of ordering Dassault Rafale or F-15EX fighters.
KAI also has the hope of making Boramae an export product and for that reason it would have started conversations with countries like Peru, Iraq, Qatar and the Philippines, among others.