South Korea rolls out new KAI KF-21 Boramae advanced fighter jet

South Korea rolls out KF21
South Korea rolls out new KAI KF-21 Boramae advanced fighter jet.

April 4, 2021 - South Korea today unveiled the first prototype of the home-made KF-21 Boramae supersonic fighter, formerly known as KF-X, at Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) manufacturing facility in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang province (as we had pre-announced a month ago). The aircraft, which has a very similar design to Lockheed Martin's F-22, is also known as the 'Baby Raptor'.

The KF-21 is an advanced twin-engine fighter that will be marketed in both single-seater and two-seater variants, depending on the role it will have to cover.

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

South Korea rolls out KF21

South Korea is expected to produce six KF-21 prototypes for testing and development, the first three to be completed by the end of this year and the next three in the first half of 2022, according to the country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

The launch of the aircraft marks a significant achievement for a country that does not have a long history of aircraft manufacturing. KAI, the only local manufacturer, was established just 20 years ago. It is known worldwide for its T-50 Advanced Trainer/LCA.

"The government seeks to become one of the top seven aviation powerhouses in the 2030s and will strengthen the country’s technological independence in aircraft engines and other core technologies," Moon said.

Approximately 65% of the KF-21 is of South Korean origin as the US government notified Seoul in 2015 that it will not transfer key component technology provided by US companies for national security reasons.

Despite its similarity to the Raptor, the DAPA defines the KF-21 as a 4.5 generation fighter due to the lack of internal weapon bays that compromise its stealthiness.

South Korea rolls out KF21

KF-21 is a joint project between South Korea and Indonesia in which the former holds 80% of the shares. South Korea recently said that while Indonesia is late with payments, it intends to stay on the project.

The new fighter jet will replace South Korea's older F-4D and F-5E fighters. As deliveries progress, it could also replace more modern F-16s and F-15Ks.

The KF-21 could also play a key role in the international combat aircraft market as its expected price of $ 65 million per unit is lower than that of the F-35 (about $ 80 million).

👉 You may also like: KAI starts final assembly of first KF-X prototype - South Korea to integrate MBDA’s Meteor missile onto KF-X fighter aircraft

Written by Matteo Sanzani

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