Indonesian Aviation Engineers to Return to South Korea for KF-21/IFX Fighter Jet Project

South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) reported that Indonesian engineers involved in the joint development of KAI KF-21/IFX Boramae fighter jets are to return to South Korea to resume working on the unfinished project. After 32 engineers are approved for entry, a total of 100 Indonesian engineers are to join the team by the end of the year. The Indonesian engineers left Korea at an early stage of the coronavirus pandemic. An earlier return also was postponed due to recent natural disasters in Indonesia. Indonesian Defense Minister Prabowo Subianto visited South Korea in April to confirm Jakarta’s commitment to joint development.

The KAI KF-21 Boramae/Fighting Hawk (formerly known as KF-X) is a joint South Korean/Indonesian 4.5 generation fighter aircraft development program with the goal of producing an advanced multirole fighter for the South Korean and Indonesian air forces. The airframe is stealthier than other fourth-generation fighters. The program is led by the South Korean government, which holds 60% of the program’s shares. Indonesia took a 20% stake in the program in 2010, and the remaining 20% is held by private partners including the manufacturer Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI). The KAI KF-X is South Korea’s second domestic fighter jet development program, following the FA-50.

Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 Boramae Fighter Jet
Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 Boramae Fighter Jet

In April 2021, the first prototype was completed and unveiled during a rollout ceremony at the headquarters of KAI in Sacheon. It was officially given the name Boramae (literally ‘young hawk’ or ‘eyas’). The first test flight is anticipated in 2022, with manufacturing scheduled to begin in 2026. At least 40 aircraft are planned to be delivered by 2028, with South Korea expecting to deploy a total of 120 of the aircraft by 2032. It will also be available for export market.

In Indonesia, the KF-X development program is referred to as the IF-X program. The Jakarta Globe reported that the completed aircraft will receive the designation F-33. Indonesia agreed to partner in South Korea’s KF-21 project aimed at developing a new fighter jet by 2026, and promised to shoulder 20 percent of the total development cost of 8.8 trillion won (US$7.6 billion), or about 1.7 trillion won. Indonesia stopped making payments after investing 227.2 billion won, with around 700 billion won overdue. The Indonesian defense ministry hoped that the program would continue despite setbacks. Indonesia sought to extend its involvement in the program to 2031.

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