South Korea’s indigenous fighter jet KF-21 Boramae takes off at a Sacheon airport on July 19. It is the world’s eighth supersonic fighter jet. Photo courtesy of DAPA

Inaugural flight of the KF-21 Boramae succeeds

South Korea is set to become the world’s eighth country to develop a supersonic fighter jet as the test flight of its KF-21 Boramae, formerly known as KF-X, succeeded on July 19.

The country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) said that the homegrown 4.5-generation jet had gone through a maiden flight.

Armed with four Meteor air-to-air missiles, the KF-21 flew at a speed of 400 kilometers per hour for 33 minutes around Sacheon where the KAI head office is located.

Over the past month, the KF-21 went through a series of taxi tests and engine thrust tests on the ground.

It took longer than two decades after the country first worked on its indigenous fighter jet in 2001.

The airframe of the KF-21 is stealthier than other fourth-generation fighters. Unlike the fifth-generation fighters, however, the KF-21 is not designed to carry weapons in internal bays.

That’s why the fighter jet is classified as a 4.5-generation.

A total of six prototype KF-21s are ready for more than 2,200 tests through 2026. Four are single-seat models, while the remaining two are twin-seater variants.

The country plans to channel 8.1 trillion won ($6.2 billion) by 2026 to improve the air fight capabilities of the KF-21 and an additional 700 billion won ($540 million) by 2028 for air-to-surface power.

The KF-21 will be equipped with the AESA radar system, which is built by Hanwha Systems. The company unveiled its prototype midway through 2020 after four years of efforts.

Based on the investment, the military strives to deploy up to 120 KF-21s by 2032. They are significant because Seoul has tried to replace its aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters with advanced ones.

The aircraft would also be available for the export market, including Indonesia, which is contracted to contribute 20 percent of the KF-21 development costs.

“We succeeded in the historic flight,” KAI Executive Vice President Ryu Kwang-su said. “However, this is the first flight, not the last.”

“We expect many challenges down the road. But we will go ahead with the development as planned to come up with the perfect KF-21 Boramae.”

The publisher studied Korean history in Seoul and management of business administration in the United Kingdom. He has 20-year experiences in the media business. Kim can be reached at voc200@gmail.com or 82-2-6956-6698.