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South Korean KF-21 fighter prototypes successfully conduct first gun and medium-range missile firing tests.

| 2023

On March 28, South Korea announced it had successfully carried out the first armament tests on two prototypes of its homegrown KF-21 fighter, the state arms procurement agency said, in a step to vet its combat capabilities, Yonhap news agency reports. The prototypes underwent separate tests over the waters off the country's southern coast after they took off from the Air Force's 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, 300 km south of Seoul, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

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South Korean KF 21 fighter prototypes successfully conduct first gun and medium range missile firing tests 1 Single-seater KF-21 prototype. The fighter bears the South Korean and Indonesian flags on the nose  (Picture source: DAPA)

The second and third KF-21 prototypes were used for the tests. Currently, four prototypes have been engaging in flight tests under a plan to utilize a total of six for the overall testing scheme set to run through 2026. The test on the second prototype was designed to check whether an air-to-air medium-range Meteor test missile can be separated from the jet without any problem. The test on the other involved the firing of some 100 rounds from an automatic gun mounted on the third prototype.

DAPA said the tests examined possible changes to the aircraft's structure, engine, and aerodynamic features during the weapons' operation so as to ensure their operational stability and safety. With the latest tests, DAPA said the KF-21 has taken "another step" to become a "complete fighter jet" to protect the country's airspace.

South Korea has so far carried out more than 150 test flights with the four KF-21 prototypes since the aircraft's maiden flight in July last year. The agency plans to start test flights for two more prototypes in the first half of the year under a plan to conduct some 2,000 flights in total by February 2026.

DAPA plans to conduct tests in all flight areas, such as in low and high altitudes as well as at low speeds, and more weapons tests, involving short-range air-to-air missiles. In the mid-to-long term, it also plans to operate the aircraft with indigenous weapons.

South Korean KF 21 fighter prototypes successfully conduct first gun and medium range missile firing tests 2 Two-seater KF-21 prototype (Picture source: DAPA)

KF-21 Boramae program

The KF-21 Boramae (meaning "hawk" in Korean) is a next-generation fighter jet developed by South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). It is also known as the KFX (Korean Fighter eXperimental) project.

The KF-21 fighter jet is designed to replace the aging fleet of South Korea's F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II fighter jets. The project was launched in 2015, and the first prototype was unveiled in April 2021. The KF-21 fighter jet is expected to enter service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) in 2026.

The KF-21 fighter jet is a 5th-generation aircraft with advanced stealth capabilities, high maneuverability, and advanced avionics. It is also equipped with advanced weapons systems, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and precision-guided bombs. The fighter jet has a maximum speed of Mach 1.8 (about 2,200 km/h) and a combat radius of 1,800 km.

One of the unique features of the KF-21 fighter jet is its indigenous development. South Korea has been striving to become more self-sufficient in defense technology, and the KF-21 project is a significant step in that direction. The KF-21 fighter jet features many locally developed technologies, including the Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, the Electro-Optical Targeting System (EOTS), and the Integrated Modular Avionics (IMA) system.

The KF-21 project is also expected to create many job opportunities and boost the South Korean defense industry. The South Korean government has invested more than 8 trillion won (about $7.1 billion) in the KF-21 project, and it is expected to generate more than 100,000 jobs and $5.3 billion in exports by 2030.

In summary, the KF-21 fighter jet is an advanced, indigenous fighter aircraft developed by South Korea's DAPA and KAI. It is designed to replace the country's aging fighter jet fleet and features advanced stealth capabilities, high maneuverability, and advanced weapons systems. Its indigenous development is a significant step towards South Korea's goal of becoming more self-sufficient in defense technology.

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