Hanwa KF-21 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) Radar
Hanwa KF-21 AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) Radar

South Korea to Conduct Domestic Performance Test for KF-21 Fighter AESA Radar

South Korea’s news agency Yonhap reported that the state arms procurement agency (DAPA) will begin a domestic performance test on a homegrown radar system this month as part of the country’s major fighter development project. The South Korean military plans to kick off the test program in mid-March for the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar to be installed on the KF-21 jet currently under development. It is set to run through April next year. Following an overseas test last year, the program is designed to identify and reduce any unforeseen operational risks through software optimization, DAPA officials said.

The military will mount the radar on a B-737 aircraft for the test program set to check 62 evaluation categories through a total of 50 flight tests. The program includes testing the radar’s detection and tracking capabilities in an air-to-air mode. The military will put the radar on the KF-21 fighter next year to continue its performance test through 2026. South Korea was the world’s 12th country to develop the AESA radar system with homegrown technologies. Since April last year, four prototypes of the KF-21 jet have been rolled out for testing purposes under a scheme to produce six of them for the defense project.

Shown a B-737 aircraft equipped with the active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar (Photo by Yonhap/DAPA)

The KAI KF-21 Boramae (formerly known as KF-X) is a South Korean 4.5 generation fighter aircraft to 5th Generation fighter aircraft development program, with limited Indonesian involvement, with the goal of producing an advanced multirole fighter for the South Korean and Indonesian air forces. The airframe is stealthier than any fourth-generation fighters, but does not carry weapons in internal bays like fifth-generation fighters, though internal bays may be introduced later in development. 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.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), which is in charge of KF-X integration, puts a priority first on reducing risk before locally developing an indigenous AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) system. The AESA radar would be a particular challenge; it was developed by Hanwha Systems with assistance from other domestic firms and support from foreign companies. AESA radar emits multiple frequency beams at the same time to detect enemy targets. It can also control guided missiles. It can drastically reduce the possibilities of aircrafts being attacked as opposed to the single frequency beam radar. In the case of KF-21 AESA radar program, it marks Korea’s first AESA radar development efforts.

Key components of AESA radar including antenna, semiconductor transmit/receive modules can be reused 100% for MFR radar with the same frequency band. (Photo by Hanwa Defense)