South Korea to Start Mass Production of KF-21 Fighter Jet in 2024

DAPA The Korea Times06.04.2023 Products
South Korea to Start Mass Production of KF-21 Fighter Jet in 2024

South Korea to Start Mass Production of KF-21 Fighter Jet in 2024

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Korea’s state-run arms procurement agency said it seeks to achieve “tentative” combat suitability of the KF-21 Boramae by May - six months earlier than planned - in order to kick off mass production of the domestically developed fighter jet next year.

The 4.5-generation combat aircraft is expected to enter service in 2026, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) added.

Since its maiden flight in July 2022, four prototypes of the KF-21, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), have flown a total of 142 sorties as of March 10, including a flight reaching supersonic speed. It also carried out a successful flight with its advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar mounted earlier this month, The Korea Times reported.

DAPA briefed lawmakers during a session of the National Assembly’s National Defense Committee on the development plan, including its push to complete a provisional combat suitability test on the jet in May this year.

Under the plan, DAPA is to ink the mass-production contract in the first half of next year after conducting a feasibility study on the production from May to August this year and finalizing the mass production plan in December.

“We have decided to adjust the scheduled for achieving its tentative combat suitability,” it said in a report to the Assembly.

The provisional testing scheme has been introduced to allow weapons developers to secure mass-production budgets even before prototypes meet all combat requirements in an effort to accelerate the overall production process. The Joint Chiefs of Staff will carry out the test.

“Through more than 140 test flights, we have demonstrated the KF-21’s performance of initial flight stability, supersonic flight, AESA radar detection accuracy and weapons,” DAPA said.

DAPA also told lawmakers that it plans to deploy the first KF-21 aircraft in the latter half of 2026.

The KF-21 project, previously known as the KF-X, aimed at manufacturing a fighter plane with higher capabilities than a KF-16 fighter, was initiated in March 2001 by late President Kim Dae-jung. The Air Force plans to secure 120 advanced multi-role fighter jets by 2032 to replace its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s under the project.

Korea and Indonesia signed a deal in 2010 to cooperate on the project, under which Jakarta would fund 20% of the total development cost of 8.8 trillion won ($6.8 billion), in exchange for a number of planes that would be manufactured there for the Indonesian Air Force, as well as for technology transfer.

Along with the AESA radar that tracks multiple targets with highly advanced and efficient components, the KF-21 employs various high-end technologies, including an infrared search-and-track system that detects low-flying targets emitting infrared radiation, such as anti-ship missiles.

The fighter jet will be equipped with air-to-air missiles such as the AIM-2000 by Germany-based Diehl and the Meteor by Britain’s MBDA. In addition, air-to-surface combat capabilities will be added during the second phase of the project from 2026 to 2028. 



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