TechSouth Korea's $474m missile plan. The independent move targeting a self-made arsenal for KF-21 aircraft

South Korea's $474m missile plan. The independent move targeting a self-made arsenal for KF‑21 aircraft

KF-21 aircraft with Meteor and Brimstone missiles - visualization
KF-21 aircraft with Meteor and Brimstone missiles - visualization
Images source: © MBDA

2:21 PM EST, December 31, 2023

South Korea is developing a short-range air-to-air missile as part of the initiative. In the project's current phase, it has allocated the equivalent of 474 million US dollars. The development timeline of the new weapon stretches from 2025 to 2035.

The ultimate goal is to integrate the new missile with the future Korean combat aircraft KAI KF-21 Boramae by the 2030s. In spring 2023, Poland expressed preliminary interest in participating in developing and producing this machinery.

The aircraft, whose prototypes underwent tests until mid-2023, is currently furnished with foreign weaponry. Due to delays in integrating American weapons like the AIM-9X Sidewinder (short range) and AIM-120 AMRAAM (medium range) missiles, Korea is considering European solutions.

Weaponry for the KF-21 Aircraft

Consequently, an agreement was signed to cooperate and integrate the KF-21 with the MBDA Meteor and S-Diehl Defence IRIS-T missiles. Essentially, South Korea aims to produce a complete range of aviation weapons independently.

By the 2040s, Seoul plans to possess its air-to-air missiles of different classes, air-to-ground missiles, and anti-ship and hypersonic weapons, thus challenging established arms corporations in the United States and Europe.

The aircraft designed to carry this arsenal is still in its development phase. At the current stage, after testing all six planned prototypes, the KF-21 is deemed a 4+ generation machine due to the lack of developed stealth features.

Ultimately, the KF-21 aims to mature into a full-fledged representative of the 5th generation aircraft, achieving reduced detectability through refined aircraft features and the application of advanced radio-electronic combat systems.

The decision to independently develop new weapons was foreshadowed by gradually establishing a research and development base.

Towards this endeavor, South Korea first constructed, in collaboration with France, the anti-aircraft systems KP-SAM Chiron and KP-SAM Pegasus, followed by the KM-SAM Cheongung system and the K-SAAM Haengung system (intended for naval warfare) in cooperation with Russia.

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