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Korean industry combines behind KAI fighter jet prototype
Thursday, 15 April 2021
South Korea reckons to have become the eighth nation worldwide to produce its own supersonic jet aircraft. KAI is aiming to source 65% of the list price of the first mass production unit domestically, across 85 items.

Korea Aerospace Industries has unveiled the prototype KF-21 aircraft in Sacheon, Gyeongnam.

The KF-X prototype has been named 'KF-21 Boramae', a title selected through a public contest conducted before the release of the prototype. 'Boramae' is commonly used as a symbol of the Air Force and KF-21 means 'a pivotal force for a leap forward to the advanced aerospace force in the 21st century' and 'a domestic fighter that will protect the Korean peninsula in the 21st century'.

It has been 20 years since former President Kim Dae-jung announced the development of a Korean fighter, KF-X, at the graduation ceremony of the Air Force Academy. The event was attended by major officials, including President Moon Jae-in, Indonesian Defense Minister Frabower Subianto, Defense Minister Seo-wook, Kang Eun-ho, Director of Defense Project Administration, and KAI President Hyun-ho Ahn.

In a memorial address, President Moon said: "A new era of self-defense has been opened. It has set a historic milestone in the development of the aviation industry. It will become the backbone of our air force. We will actively support the aviation industry with the goal of becoming the world's seventh powerhouse in the aviation sector in the 2030s."

President Ahn said, "KF-21 is an achievement and a leap forward made by the government, research institutes, and business partners as a team. Meanwhile, it will create quality jobs."

In December 2015, KAI signed a contract to develop a Korean fighter system with the Defense Acquisition Program Administration. After completing the basic design (PDR) in 2018, it started processing parts in February 2019 and passed the detailed design (CDR) in September of that year. After the release ceremony of the prototype, it will prepare for the first flight to take place next year.

If KF-21 development is completed through ground and flight tests by June 2026, Korea is expected to become the world's 8th independent country to develop supersonic fighter jets.

The KF-21 is a next-generation fighter that will replace the air force's long-running fighters and protect the airspace in future battlefields. It is the largest weapon system research and development project since the construction of the military.

The KF-21 is equipped with twin engines and applied low-pitching technology. It is larger than the F-16 fighter with a fuselage length of 16.9 m, a width of 11.2 m, and a height of 4.7 m, and is similar in size to the F-18 fighter. The maximum speed is Mach 1.81 (2200 km per hour), the range is 2,900 km, and the armament payload is 7.7 tons.

In addition, the KF-21 is a domestic fighter, capable of improving its own performance, and was designed with the evolutionary development in mind to integrate the domestically developed armament system into the aircraft.

Long-distance air-to-ground missiles currently under development in Korea can be installed, and stable supply and demand through localisation of parts is possible in the future, which is expected to reduce operating and maintenance costs and maintain a high utilisation rate.

KAI is aiming to source 65% of the list price of the first mass production unit domestically.

A total of 85 items are being sourced locally, including AESA: Active Electronically Scanned Array (Active Electronic Phased Array Radar); EO TGP: Electro-Optical Targeting Pod (Electro-Optical Targeting Pod); IRST: Infra-Red Search and Track (Infrared Ray Tracking Equipment); and EW Suite: Electronic Warfare Suite (Integrated Electronic Warfare System).

KAI is developing more than 60 items of flight control and mission equipment software installed on the KF-21. In the past, when the T-50 advanced trainer was developed, it was a product that relied on foreign companies.

KAI is conducting a large part of the tests performed with actual aircraft safely while lowering cost and risk by verifying components in advance during the integrated test of radar and avionics equipment using the Avionics Integrated Test Lab (SIL).

In addition, it has developed a controllability evaluation simulator (HQS), one of the fourth industrial technologies, to check flight characteristics and control stability, and find defects that may occur during flight to ensure reliability.

According to an announcement by the Korea Institute of Weapons Systems in 2017, the production induction effect from KF-21 is expected to be 24 trillion won and the technology spread effect is expected to be 49 trillion won.

As a result of KAI's survey of the results of employment of the Defense Science Research Institute and the first and second-tier suppliers, it was found that more than 10,000 jobs were created over the past five years, and about 2,500 new employees last year contributed to alleviating the unemployment rate.

By 2028, the employment inducement effect is expected to generate 110,000 jobs, and the economic effect is expected to generate KRW 2.1 trillion. When KF-21 enters full-scale mass production, 100,000 jobs will be added, as well as KRW 5,900 billion.

Contact details from our directory:
Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. Airframer
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