South Korea’s Agency for Defense Development (ADD) selected Korean Air as its preferred bidder to build an armed stealth drone. 

The development of the system, referred to as “stealth UAV [unmanned aerial vehicle – AeroTime] squadron”, started at ADD in November 2021. The agency has already completed the basic design and will work in conjunction with Korean Air on the detailed design. 

The aircraft is expected to support manned aircraft in combat, acting as a loyal wingman. In addition, the drone is going to be able to perform missions on its own, the Korean Air press release says. 

The flag carrier of South Korea, Korean Air, also has a sizeable research and development division known for manufacturing parts of the country’s KF-16 fighter jet and other aircraft. 

According to Korean Air, the airline already collaborated with ADD in 2010, building and flight testing the country’s first stealth drone. 

Numerous major aircraft manufacturers are currently working on their loyal wingman programs, envisioning a swarm of combat drones working in a team with manned fighter jets.

A picture, attached to the Korean Air press release, shows an artist’s impression of such a squadron: four jet-powered drones that surround a sixth-generation fighter jet. 

While the jet in the middle can be recognized as a concept created by Argentinian artist Rodrigo Avella, the surrounding drones are likely to be preliminary designs of the South Korean loyal wingman.