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Korea Aerospace Industries AESA-equipped KF-21 Fighter Prototype on Test-flight

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Korea Aerospace Industries AESA-equipped KF-21 Fighter Prototype on Test-flight

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Korea Aerospace Industries AESA-equipped KF-21 Fighter Prototype on Test-flight
Korea Aerospace Industries AESA-equipped KF-21 Fighter Prototype on Test-flight

South Korea’s homegrown fighter KF-21 Boramae conducted its successful test flight with the advanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar mounted, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said Saturday, in the latest sign of progress in the advanced jet’s development project. The third prototype took off from the Air Force’s 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, at 10 a.m. and completed an 84-minute flight. The third prototype conducted its successful maiden flight in January. The South Korean news agency Yonhap reported that the first and second KF-21 prototypes carried out their maiden flights in July and November, respectively, last year.

The first test flight occurred on 19 July 2022. A second KF-21 flew in November 2022 and a third in January 2023, achieving the aircraft’s first supersonic flight during the month. The first two-seat KF-21 prototype flew on 20 February 2023. The two-seater’s primary role will initially be type conversion, however DAPA is considering other operational missions that would be more suited to a two-seat platform including electronic warfare. In January, the fourth, two-seat prototype also had a maiden flight. The agency said it plans to start conducting flights for two more prototypes in the first half of the year under a plan to conduct some 2,000 test flights in total by February 2026. The first KF-21 prototype achieved supersonic speeds for the first time in a test flight last month.

AESA radar was co-developed with Hanwha Systems under the leadership of the ADD. Elta Systems helped to test the prototype hardware of the AESA radar developed by Hanwha Systems, and Saab provided technical advice to LIG Nex1, which develops Multi Function Radar (MFR) software for AESA radars.
Active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar was co-developed with Hanwha Systems under the leadership of the ADD. (Photo by KAI)

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.

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”). The first test flight was conducted on 19 July 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.

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