South Korea rolls out its very own fifth-generation fighter jet, KF-21

Korea Aerospace Industries

South Korean President Moon Jae-in unveiled the country’s first domestically developed fighter, the KF-21 Boramae fifth-generation fighter jet, birthed from the KF-X program. The aircraft will eventually replace the aging fleet of South Korean F-4 Phantom II and F-5 Tiger fighters.

The unveiling of the first prototype took place at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in Sacheon, south of the country. The assembly began on September 2, 2020. The work on the fighter jet concept started in 2015, while the finalized design was unveiled in 2019. 

“We have opened a new era of self-defense and also established a historic milestone in the progression of the aviation industry,” Moon said during the rollout ceremony. “We plan to deploy 40 jets by 2028 and a total of 120 by 2032.”

The KF-X program is estimated at 8.8 trillion won ($7.3 billion) and is a joint development with Indonesia. GE Aviation is another partner, which will supply F414 engines used on F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Saab JAS 39E/F Gripens. 

“The South Korea-Indonesia joint project to develop a next-generation fighter jet symbolically shows the high level of trust and cooperation between the two nations,” Moon recently said in a meeting with Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto.

The finalized aircraft is set to have a maximum speed of Mach 1.81, a range of 2,900 kilometers, and a maximum payload of 7,700 kilograms. It will carry a Korean-designed radar system and a range of American- and European-made missiles. South Korea should eventually become the fourth country to develop a fifth-generation fighter jet, after the United States, Russia, and China.


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