South Korea’s KF-21 fighter jet completes successful aerial refueling test


The fifth prototype of the KF-21 Boramae fighter has completed an aerial refueling flight test over the Korea Strait. South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) announced the achievement on March 19, 2024. 

The single-seat prototype, designed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), took off from the 3rd Flying Training Wing of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), based in Sacheon Airport (HIN). 

“We have secured [the KF-21’s] long-distance operational capabilities,” DAPA Director General Seok Jong-geon commented. 

Despite the turbulence generated during the process, the KF-21 successfully demonstrated its ability to safely connect and disconnect during an aerial refueling test. The test was conducted with a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) KC-330 Cygnus MRTT tanker aircraft, and evaluations were carried out to ensure the seamless transfer of fuel. 

DAPA has stated that the successful test sets the stage for future missions where actual fuel will be transferred under different flight conditions, such as various altitudes and speeds. 

Aerial refueling is a critical feature for modern fighter jets, allowing them to significantly extend their operational radius and duration. By connecting with a tanker aircraft mid-flight and transferring fuel, the KF-21 can maximize its effectiveness in long-distance missions, enhancing the ROKAF’s future combat power. 

What is the KF-21 Boramae fighter jet? 

The KF-21 Boramae is a fighter aircraft developed through the KF-X program, a joint venture between South Korea and Indonesia. It is equipped with two GE Aviation engines, the same type used in F/A-18E/F Super Hornets and Saab JAS 39E/F Gripens.  

DAPA hopes to finalize a contract with KAI by the first half of 2024, and production of the KF-21 is expected to start later in the year. Mass production of the fighter is planned to begin in 2026, with the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) expecting to acquire 120 KF-21 fighters by 2032. These aircraft will replace the ROKAF’s aging fleet, which includes the F-4E and F-5E fighters. 

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