Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 Multi-Role Fighter
Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 Multi-Role Fighter

Republic of Korea Air Force KF-16 Multi-Role Fighter

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The KF-16 is a license-produced version of the American F-16 for or the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). The Korea Fighter Program originally called for the purchase of 12 F-16s from Lockheed Martin, while Samsung was to assemble 36 and produce the last batch of 72 jets under a license agreement with the US company. In order to produce the fighters locally, a joint venture called Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) was formed between Korea’s three leading aircraft makers – Samsung Aerospace, Daewoo Heavy Industries, and Hyundai Space and Aircraft. The locally produced fighter was dubbed the KF-16. While looking just like the F-16 Fighting Falcon, the KF-16 has some changes to meet local requirements.

KAI, designated as prime contractor in 1986, was awarded contract from government in November 1991. Until the last KF-16 delivery, KAI successfully produced and delivered the KF-16 in time to Republic of Korea Air force. To implement this program, construction of Sacheon plant, 40 thousand production equipment, 18 thousand planing were done. And over 640 engineers were trained overseas and vast volume of technical data amounting to 430 thousand items were acquired. These production preparation and activities served as precious momentum for drastic national aircraft industry development.

F-16 Fighting Falcons from Kunsan Air Base and South Korean KF-16s taxi to the runway together. The purpose of the exercise is to improve interoperability between U.S. Air Force and ROKAF fighter squadrons.(U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)

The KF-16 has air-to-air and ground-attack capabilities. Furthermore it can fly in all weather conditions and carry smart weapons. This multi-role fighter has 7 hardpoints and 2 wing tip mounts. These mounts are used to carry AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM, AGM-65D, cruise missiles, anti-ship missiles, Joint Direct Attack Munition (JDAM), rocket pods, or fuel tanks. There is an integral M61 Vulcan 20 mm 6-barrel cannon. The KF-16 is powered by a single Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 turbofan engine. This engine is fitted with an afterburner and generates 79 kN of dry thrust and 129.4 kN with afterburning. This engine powers late models of the F-16 and F-15E Strike Eagle.

Despite its age the KF-16 is still actively used by the South Korean air force. Lockheed Martin was awarded a $1.2 billion contract to upgrade 134 F-16 aircraft for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) on 21 November 2016. The upgrades are based on the advanced F-16V configuration. Among the enhancements are an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, a modern commercial off-the-shelf (COTS)-based avionics subsystem, a large-format, high-resolution center pedestal display and a high-volume and high-speed data bus. The contract for the ROKAF upgrade is a foreign military sales contract issued by the U.S. Air Force.

A South Korean KF-16 from Seosan Air Base, Republic of Korea, takes off during Exercise Buddy Wing (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Taylor Curry/Released)