Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) has confirmed rumors that it plans to launch a new airlifter aircraft. A video presented by the company this week in Seoul revealed the preliminary forms of a twin-engine military transport jet whose size resembles the Airbus A400M.
The aircraft follows the classic configuration of an airlifter, with high wing, T-tail and rear access ramp, but KAI suggests that the model could perform varied missions in addition to transport such as maritime patrol and anti-submarine warfare and even ground attack and launching small satellites into space.
The nameless airlifter is also shown refueling the new South Korean fighter KF-21 in flight using a retractable boom, a system that would require a variant without a rear access ramp.
Based on the promotional video, the aircraft’s length is estimated at about 46 meters. If confirmed, the measurement is very close to the four-engine A400M turboprop, which is capable of carrying up to 37 tons of payload.
KAI had already suggested that it was interested in the transport aircraft market, where it does not yet have products, last year. According to statements by CEO Ahn Hyun-ho, the airlifter could start to be developed in 2025 and enter service in 2031.
Currently, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) operates only small capacity transport turboprops, including old C-130H and recent C-130J and also CN-235. South Korea also has three Airbus A330 MRTTs for aerial refueling.