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KF-21 "Boramae" = "Falcon" or "Young Eagle"
Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X) / FX Next Generation Fighter

Korea Aerospace Industries Co., Ltd. 'Korea Type Fighter (KF-21) Prototype Release Ceremony' was held 09 April 2021 . It had been 20 years since former President Kim Dae-jung announced the development of a Korean fighter at the graduation ceremony of the Air Force Academy. The event was attended by major officials, including President Moon Jae-in, Indonesian Defense Minister Frabower Subianto, Defense Minister Seo-wook, Kang Eun-ho, Director of Defense Project Administration, and KAI President Hyun-ho Ahn.

President Moon Jae-in presided at the rollout ceremony for the prototype of its first indigenous fighter jet, the KF-21. Moon congratulated the engineers and other officials behind the feat, saying it has opened an era for South Korea's defense. The first flight test is scheduled for 2022, with full development set to be complete by 2026. "We plan to deploy 40 jets by 2028 and a total of 120 by 2032. We now have our own advanced supersonic fighter jet made domestically. We have become the eighth in the world to do so. A new era of self-defense has begun, and it's a historic milestone in the development of the aviation industry."

In a memorial address, President Moon said, “A new era of self-defense has been opened,” and “it has set a historic milestone in the development of the aviation industry.” In addition, he said, “It will become the backbone of our air force,” and “We will actively support the aviation industry with the goal of becoming the world's seventh powerhouse in the aviation sector in the 2030s.”

The whole process of making South Korea's first homegrown fighter jet, the KF-21 Borame, from start to finish, including its design to production was led by local technicians with locally developed technology. With the rollout of the KF-21, South Korea became the 13th country in the world to produce its own fighter jets equipped with advanced tech and radar systems.

The KF-21 "Boramae" [= "Falcon" or "Young Eagle"] project is a program to develop an advanced multirole fighter for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) based on domestic aerospace technology. Under the agreement reached in 2015, Indonesia will bear 20 percent of the funding in the project worth US$7.8 billion, with 125 KFX to be built for South Korea and 51 IFX planned for manufactured for Indonesia. The KF-X project began in 2015, when the South Korean government earmarked 8.8 trillion won (US$7.12 billion) to develop a jet fighter that could be the future workhorse of the Republic of Korea (ROK) Air Force, replacing the aging F-4 and F-5 fighters. KAI is leading this international joint R&D project and contributing 20% of the cost, with the South Korean government paying 60% of the cost and the Indonesian government paying the remaining 20%.

The program is targeting production of a 4.5-5G fighter to replace Korea's aging F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft (243 units in total). The government is targeting the introduction of 120 fighter aircraft in 2025. KF-X is Korea’s largest weapons project, bearing total costs of around W30tr (including R&D expenses of W8.7tr).

The multi-role KF-X aircraft will be designed and built by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI), which partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop the $7.4 billion project. The KF-X aircraft will replace Korea’s F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II fleet. The development program is scheduled to be completed in 2026, which includes the production of six prototype fighters by 2021. During the production phase, 120 KF-X aircraft are slated for production serving the South Korean and Indonesian armed forces, helping extend planned F414 engine production through 2032.

The KF-X fighter project was likely give rise to the following positives: 1) a significant economic contribution, 2) aerospace technology development, and 3) the strengthening of national security. Excluding R&D costs, roughly W10tr will be invested in mass production and W9tr in fighter operation and management. In light of the government’s export plan, the project is expected to add around W60tr to the economy. Technology transfers from countries with advanced aerospace technologies will give the Korean aerospace industry a chance to take a major leap forward. All in all, the KF-X project is forecast to have positive ripple effects on the aerospace and defense sectors (as well as certain other industries). The domestic development of fighter jets is anticipated to reinforce Korea’s aerial defense and capabilities in joint military operations. And easier operation and maintenance (relative to imported jets) should help increase fighter utilization.

The South Korean government will develop its own indigenous fighter jets starting in 2014 to replace the aging KF-16s by 2023. “The government will start the Boramae program, code-named KF-X, aimed at producing about 120 fighter jets independently in the country,” Baek Yun-hyeong, a spokesman for the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said at a briefing 16 January 2014. “This year, we have a new budget to embark on the project, about 20 billion won [$18.7 million], with a goal to develop the jets by 2023 and gradually dispatch them to operations for the next seven or eight years [from 2023].”

The total budget for the 10-year project is estimated to be 8 trillion won, the spokesman said. After completion, about 120 jets will be provided to the Korean Air Force, with an additional 50 going to Indonesia, a primary partner in the program. The KF-X program has put an end to decade-long controversies surrounding the necessity of South Korea’s own fighter jets and their economic efficiency.

“We already possess the supersonic aircraft T-50 Golden Eagle, and we are developing low-grade combat jets by remodeling the T-50,” Yun said. “Given the fact that we have already imported some light attack jets to Iraq, there would be no problem for us to develop a middle-grade fighter jet.”

Expectations grew that South Korea would be recognized as a leading country in advanced aerospace, not only as one of the world’s top five automakers, officials in Seoul said. “In the process of developing the new jets, we could face enormous difficulties and frustrations, but after we overcome those potential hurdles, we would accumulate a massive amount of experiences and skills,” said an official at DAPA. “Ten years from now, South Korea would be one of the world’s top aerospace and arms producers along with the United States, Russia and China.”

With the development of the country’s first domestic advanced jet T-50, its manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries, was preparing additional exports of the supersonic aircraft to the United States, following those to Indonesia and Iraq. South Korea expected the indigenous fighter jet program to contribute to job creation. According to a 2012 report by the Agency for Defense Development, the project would employ 90,000 workers at most and have an approximately 41 trillion won ripple effect on involved industries.

Still, industry observers pointed out that the project’s massive costs could become an issue. Although the Indonesian government has agreed to invest about 20 percent to the development costs, if the project drags on, that figure could escalate to as much as 8 trillion won. The Southeast Asian nation would also have to pay an additional amount for the purchase of the new fighter jets.

South Korea military chiefs endorsed a plan on 18 July 2014 to design and make a mid-level fighter jet for delivery starting in 2025. The proposed twin-engine fighter jet, dubbed the KF-X program, was endorsed by South Korea's Joint Chiefs of Staff. The development of the jet is estimated to cost upwards of 8.5 trillion won (USD 8.24 billion). The project will be carried out by the country's sole jet builder, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI). The jet program had been initially co-developed with US defense contractor Lockheed Martin Corp.

South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) Ltd., was picked as the preferred bidder for the country's indigenous fighter jet development program, beating a partnership of Airbus and Korean Airlines, the arms procurement agency said 30 March 2015. KAI was expected to partner with Lockheed Martin. The 8.67 trillion won (US$7.84 billion) KF-X project calls for South Korea to develop fighter jets of the F-16 class to replace its aging fleet of F-4s and F-5s. Some 120 jets are to be put into service starting around 2025, with the production to cost another 9.3 trillion won.

In July 2014, Korea’s Joint Chiefs of Staff decided to equip the KF-X with two engines, pushing back the year of deployment to 2025 and bumping up the total R&D budget from W6.4tr to W8.7tr. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration will assume 60% (W5.2tr) of total development costs, while the Indonesian government will shoulder 20% of the costs under a cooperative agreement with the Korean government. Private firms, including KAI, will bear the remaining 20%.

On 26 May 2016, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) selected GE Aviation as the preferred bidder to supply F414 engines for its next-generation indigenous fighter, known as the KF-X. In a statement, DAPA said GE Aviation scored highest in all four main criteria for the contract: technology, costs, localization and management. The F414-GE-400-powered KF-X will deliver significantly greater mission capability, extended combat radius and longer lifespan compared to current aircraft.

President Park Geun-hye replaced senior presidential secretary for foreign affairs Ju Chul-ki, 19 October 2015, amid mounting calls for her top security aides to take responsibility for failing to obtain four key technologies related to F-35 stealth fighters from the United States. Ju was replaced with Kim Kyou-hyon, the deputy chief of the National Security Office (NSO), according to Cheong Wa Dae. The reshuffle was construed as Park censuring the secretary over the failure to receive the core technologies from the U.S., which dealt a serious setback to the nation's 8.5 trillion won KF-X project to develop indigenous fighter jets by 2025.

US Defense Secretary Ash Carter rejected Minister Han's request for the transfer at the Pentagon 15 October 2015, while the latter was accompanying President Park on her trip to the US. Han was also criticized for openly talking about his plan to ask Carter for the transfer, although he apparently knew that the US government would be unlikely to reverse its earlier decision not to allow Lockheed to transfer the technologies.

In October 2019, at the Seoul Air Show in South Korea, the full-scale model of the KF-X fighter was officially exhibited. The Korean side announced that the KF-X fighter project had completed the preliminary design and entered the prototype manufacturing stage. The prototype was successfully rolled off the assembly line. The South Korean Defense Department stated that the previous involvement only on the drawings has been gradually realized, and the development of the new generation fighter jet has entered the performance evaluation stage.

The Korean National Defense Acquisition and Planning Administration (DAPA) stated taht Korea Aviation Industry Corporation (KAI) will begin development of the first prototype of the KF-X. The decision was made after the Planning Administration conducted a critical design review (CDR) on the KF-X fighter project 24 to 26 September 2019. As part of the CDR, DAPA reviewed 390 "technical data" parameters to "ensure that military requirements are properly reflected in the design." DAPA pointed out that KF-X "successfully passed the critical design review", so this project will move forward to the design implementation stage.

Opponents said through the media that South Korea and Indonesia did not have the technical experience and financial capability to organize the development of such advanced fighter jets on their own. Some media analysis believed that Korea Aviation Industry Corporation was unable to complete the fifth-generation stealth fighter development plan, which may cost tens of billions, and its concept of inviting major Western fighter manufacturers to implement concretely will result in the Korean or Indonesian government being unable to control the direction of the project.

The prototype of the South Korean promising fighter KF-X was completed in early 2021. This was announced on 03 September 2020 by the national defense development agency. According to DAPA, the Korea Aerospace Corporation (KAI), which is engaged in this $ 7.3 billion project, had already started the final stage of assembly at its plant in Sacheon, 440 kilometers south of Seoul. The design of the aircraft was approved in 2019r. Development of the KF-X began in December 2015. One of the key elements of the fighter - a radar with an active phased antenna array was created on the basis of South Korean developments. A prototype of this assembly was presented in July 2020.

After being assembled for five years, the KF-X will undergo ground and flight tests. They are planned to be completed by 2026 and after that to start mass production of the fighter. According to the manufacturers' plans, the aircraft will be able to accelerate to Mach 1.81, carry weapons with a total weight of up to 7.7 tons, and the flight range without refueling or additional fuel tanks will be 2.9 thousand km.

Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd.(KAI) announced that final assembly of KF-X prototype was launched from 01 September 2020. Final assembly meant to put forward/middle/rear fuselage and main wing/empennage together into one whole final aircraft. This achievement is accomplished only in 4 years. KAI started system development from 2015 dec, went through PDR(Preliminary Design Review) in 2018, began the first detail part machining on February 2019 and passed the CDR(Critical Design Review) on September 2019.

KAI was fully committed to maximize its development efficiency not only through recruiting around 800 development engineers, but also expanding infrastructure with newly built plants only dedicated to each structure test, system test and composite machining. Mission and flight control computer, equivalent to its brain, will be installed to KF-X for ground test and test flight after performance test in 2020. KF-X will be completed by the first half year of 2021 and the first flight test is scheduled to be done in 2022. By 2026, system development is ended. For deeper study and efficient development, 16 of universities, 11 of laboratories and 553 of suppliers are participated in KF-X project and 100 of additional development engineers wwere hired by 2020. KAI CEO said, “Thanks to great partnership and industry, university and institute collaboration, we could launch the final assembly in covid-19 crisis. There is no way other than success. We will succeed in KF-X and contribute to Korean aviation industry and national economy.”

After the start of the full-fledged development of KF-21, it is contributing to vitalization of the national economy through increased participation of domestic companies, such as discovering items that can be localized. According to an announcement by the Korea Institute for Weapon Systems Research in 2017, the production induction effect from KF-21 is expected to be 24 trillion won and the technology spread effect is expected to be 49 trillion won.

As a result of KAI's survey of the results of employment of the Defense Science Research Institute and the first and second-tier suppliers, it was found that more than 10,000 jobs were created over the past five years, and about 2,500 new employees last year contributed to alleviating the unemployment rate. By 2028, the employment inducement effect is expected to generate 110,000 people, and the economic effect is expected to generate KRW 2.1 trillion. When KF-21 enters full-scale mass production, 100,000 jobs will be added, as well as KRW 5,900 billion. It is expected that added value will be created.

TF-X Turkey

Korea remained interested in reducing its share of the estimated $8 billion in development costs, had also discussed a partnership with Turkey. Ankara announced plans for its own indigenous fighter in December 2010. South Koreans offered Turkey only a 20 percent share of the project, with another 20 percent going to Indonesia, while Turkey wanted an equal share in the development of a new plane, and quickly rejected the offer. By the Summer of 2011 Turkey was in talks with South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries [KAI] and Sweden’s Saab, ultimately turning to the later.

IF-X - Indonesia

Indonesia is a junior partner, which is why the aircraft is sometimes called KF-X/IF-X. In July 2011 KAI and the government finally signed a contract to develop the aircraft, with Indonesia as part of the program, contributing engineers and 20% of the development costs. Development of the KF-X will be conducted in three stages: technological development over the two years 2011-2013, engineering and manufacturing development, and, finally, production. The partners agreed to produce approximately 150-200 aircraft, of which Indonesia would get 50, sufficient to equip three combat squadrons. Jakarta initially expected the first KF-X to be ready by 2018.

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Page last modified: 09-04-2021 19:25:58 ZULU