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South Korea makes first test-flight of its '4.5th generation' KF-21 fighter jet

Source : Aviation Week

South Korea makes first test-flight of its '4.5th generation' KF-21 fighter jet
The KF-21, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries as part of a $6.6 billion project, is meant to replace an aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters while being a cheaper alternative to the American F-35 Lightning II stealth jet. Photo courtesy of Defense Acquisition Program Administration

SEOUL: South Korea’s latest fighter project, the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae, completed its first flight on the afternoon of July 19.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said the KF-21 took off at the Third Flying Training Wing of the Air Force in Sacheon, South Korea, where the aircraft is manufactured. The KF-21 flew around the area for more than 30 min. Local media reported that the flight took around 40 min.

DAPA added that the fighter was equipped with four captive MBDA Meteor missiles, but not with other advanced avionics like the infrared search-and-track system. A Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) source told Aerospace DAILY that it tested basic low-speed flight, flying at around 215 kt. Two KAI T-50s provided chase during the event.

KAI has completed the assembly of six prototype aircraft, including two twin-seater variants. These six aircraft will conduct a combined total of 2200 sorties by 2026 before Block 1 will enter production for the ROKAF.

Forty Blk. 1 will be manufactured and integrated with Diehl Defense AIM-2000 (IRIS-T), Meteor, JDAM, LJDAM and locally developed KGGB guided bomb. Blk. 1 will also have full air-to-air combat capability and limited air-to-ground capability to attain initial operating capability.

Another 80 Blk. 2 with full air-to-ground capability will be delivered from 2028, this time giving the aircraft full operational capability status. ROKAF is mulling a Blk. 3 that is expected to bring the KF-21 to 5th-generation fighter standards, with an enlarged fuselage and full stealth and joint operation features.

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