TechSouth Korea bets big on new KF-21 Boramae aircraft, aims for self-reliance in aviation

South Korea bets big on new KF‑21 Boramae aircraft, aims for self-reliance in aviation

KF-21 Boramae
KF-21 Boramae
Images source: © Getty Images | SOPA Images

2:36 AM EST, January 17, 2024

The signing of the contract is expected to occur in the first half of 2024. The early decision to order, despite the absence of experience garnered from pre-production examples, signifies that the test results must be quite promising. Thus, Koreans are confident in both the quality and capabilities of their aircraft.

The KF-21 Boramae was developed in a remarkably brief time. Starting its life within the KF-X program in 2015, the first of the six planned prototypes enjoyed a successful maiden flight in 2022. Just 11 years after initiating the project, serial production of the aircraft is due to begin.

By then, a production line is expected to be established, along with the organization of a supply chain.

Despite its visual resemblance to a 5th generation aircraft, the KF-21 is currently classified as a 4.5-generation machine. This is because the Korean design currently lacks advanced stealth features.

In future development plans, these features are expected to be implemented, primarily through the use of modern Electronic Warfare Systems, and in part, through altering the aircraft's shape and coating.

The KF-21 will become a competitive player in South Korean aviation, alongside purchases from the United States, such as the F-35s and the lightweight FA-50s. The new aircraft type within the Korean Air Force is projected to replace the retiring and outdated F-5 and F-4 aircraft.

Simultaneously with its own aircraft development program, South Korea is embarking on an initiative to construct indigenous airborne weapons. This action poses a challenge to traditional US and European manufacturers, who have been in the business for decades.

This ambitious venture was inaugurated with the development of various anti-aircraft missiles, such as KM-SAM Cheongung, KP-SAM Chiron, and KP-SAM Pegasus, in partnership with Russia and France.

The next step involves working independently on airborne weapons, with a timeline set between the years 2025 to 2035. Thanks to these efforts, Seoul is hoping not only to have a modern fighter aircraft ready by the 2040s, but also a full range of its own weapons to equip it with, including several classifications of air-to-air missiles and ground and ship attack variants.

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