South Korea has officially unveiled the first locally-developed KF-X fighter aircraft prototype that will be known as KF-21 Boramae.
The aircraft was unveiled at the Korea Aerospace Industries Co. facility in Sacheon, on March 9, with South Korean and Indonesian flags on its fuselage. Indonesia is officially still a 20 percent partner in the fighter program, despite rumors of the country’s intent to procure other aircraft such as the French Rafale or the US F-15EX.
Boramae (which is Korean for hawk) was unveiled a year ahead of its first flight, which is expected to take place in 2022.
Speaking at the unveiling ceremony, South Korean president Moon Jae-in said the country’s goal was to put over 100 KF-21s in operation by 2032.
The “4.5-generation” fighter was unveiled six years after South Korea started work on the program with Korea Aerospace Industries as main contractor. The country earmarked close to $8 billion for the program that would replace the F-4 and F-5 jets.
According to KAI statements, Boramae will be close to a fifth-generation fighter jet with capabilities comparable to the advanced versions of the F-16.
While the aircraft features a high degree of local content, like the indigenous Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track systems and an electronic warfare suite, it relies on foreign technology for some capabilities. These include terrain following-terrain avoidance systems from Israel, or beyond visual range air-to-air missiles from France, among others.
Overall, the program strives to achieve over 60 percent of local industry content.
South Korea plans to start serial production of the aircraft as soon as it completes trials and expects to have 40 fighters in Republic of Korea Air Force service by 2028.