Farnborough Air Show

South Korea’s KF-21 Boramae Takes To the Air

 - July 19, 2022, 11:28 AM
KF-21 No. 1 makes its July 19 first flight with a KAI T-50 chase plane in attendance. (Photo: Defense Acquisition Program Administration)

The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)-led team developing the KF-21 Boramae fighter jet achieved a major milestone Tuesday with the first flight of the prototype. Flown by Major Ahn Jun-hyun of the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), the aircraft took off at 3:40 p.m. local time for a 33-minute flight from Sacheon airfield, home to the ROKAF’s 3rd Training Wing. The aircraft bears the flags of both South Korea and Indonesia, the latter being a 20 percent partner in the program.

KAI is assembling six flying prototypes, the final two of which will be the two-seat version. On the first flight, the basic flying properties of the aircraft were validated. The test program is due to run until 2026 to evaluate the aircraft in the air-to-air role and will encompass around 2,200 flights. However, KAI plans an interim assessment for next year to permit the acceleration of the development and production phases.

The KF-21 is due to enter ROKAF service as a replacement for the Northrop F-5 and remaining F-4 Phantoms. It likely will have an interim capability limited to air-to-air duties, for which the MBDA Meteor is the primary weapon. Four mockups of the missile were carried in the semi-recessed under-fuselage bays of the KF-21 on its first flight. Subsequent development between 2026 and 2028 will add the fully intended air-to-surface capability.