The South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) reported that the fourth prototype of South Korean fighter KF-21 Boramae conducted its successful maiden flight Monday. The two-seat prototype took off from the Air Force’s 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, at 11:19 a.m. and completed a 34-minute flight, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). The fourth prototype will be used to see if the difference between the single-seat and two-seat prototypes will have any impact on the operation of the aircraft and also will conduct avionics tests on the advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. The two-seat model is also to be used largely to train pilots.
The KAI KF-21 Boramae (formerly known as KF-X) is a South Korean-lead 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 any fourth-generation fighter, but does not carry weapons in internal bays like fifth-generation fighters, though internal bays may be introduced later in development. 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% are held by private partners including the manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The KAI KF-X is South Korea’s second domestic fighter jet development program, following the FA-50.
Launched in 2015, the 8.8 trillion-won (US$6.8 billion) KF-21 project is aimed at developing a supersonic fighter to replace South Korea’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets. In February 2019, KAI began production work on the KF-X prototype, with six expected to be completed in 2021. These are to undergo four years of trials, and complete the development process by mid-2026. In April 2021, the first prototype was completed and unveiled during a rollout ceremony at the headquarters of KAI at Sacheon Airport. It was officially given the name Boramae (“young hawk” or “fighting hawk”). 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.
The first prototype was publicly rolled out on 9 April 2021; in addition to the six aircraft for airborne tests, two will be made for ground tests. The first test flight occurred on 19 July 2022. The aircraft bore the flags of South Korea and Indonesia and took off from Sacheon Airbase for 33 minutes. Six flying prototypes, including two two-seat versions, will conduct 2,200 flights until mass production begins in 2026. 40 Block-1 jets will have an interim capability limited to air-to-air duties, then the following 80 Block-2 jets from 2028 will add air-to-ground engagement. Later developments will include equipping the KF-21 with a domestically developed air-launched cruise missile (ALCM) and hypersonic missile.