KF-21 Boramae fighter

South Korea approves first batch of 20 KF-21 Boramae fighters

Initial production contract with Korea Aerospace Industries covers the years 2024 to 2028

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) secured the first 20 indigenous KF-21 Boramae fighter jets on March 22, when the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) approved the initial production batch of the aircraft from Korea Aerospaces Industries (KAI).

The 20 aircraft are expected to be produced between 2024 and 2028 and will cost around US$5.8 billion. The number would be half of what was expected by KAI, which has accelerated the development of the Generation 4.5 fighter.

A second batch of the same number of aircraft should be signed as soon as KAI progresses in testing the AESA (Active Electronically Scanned Array) radar and the air-to-air weapons system.

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The KF-21 has been developed since the early 2000s, but the program only gained momentum this decade. In 2022, KAI flew the first prototype, which was followed by other test aircraft including a two-seat one.

KF-21 maiden flight (KAI)

Replacement for the F-4 and F-5 fighters

The first serial production KF-21 is expected to be delivered to the ROKAF in mid-2026. South Korea expects to have 120 aircraft of the type by 2032, which will replace older fighters in its fleet such as the F-4 Phantom and the F -5 Tiger II.

The ROKAF also has F-16C and modern F-35A jets, as well as around 60 F-15Ks that will be updated.

ROKAF F-16, F-5 and F-4 fighters (ROKAF)

The KF-X program also involves Indonesia, which should finance a smaller part of the investment, but the country would be late in payments.

Furthermore, there are reports of industrial espionage carried out by Indonesian officials, which have been denied by the country’s government.


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