Sacheon Airport in South Korea has recently witnessed the maiden flight of the indigenously developed fighter jet known as “KF-21,” which has proved a stepping stone in the history of South Korea so far. There have been reports circulating that South Korea was conducting ground tests for this locally developed fighter jet, and just after two weeks, the aircraft made it to the skies. It was 3:40 pm local time in South Korea when the first prototype of KF-21, known as “Boramae” (meaning “hawk” in Korean), flew from Sacheon Airport, which is a civilian airport and is also the main hub for the “3rd Flying Training Wing of the Republic of Korean Air Force (ROKAF)”.
Coupled with this, the plane landed at 4:13 pm and was followed by another plane, a two-seater “T-50 advanced jet trainer,” throughout the route to assess the operational efficiency of the aircraft. It is to be noted that Indonesia also has a 20% stake in the development of the first phase of this aircraft. Moreover, four long-range “Meteor air-to-air missiles” have also been integrated into a precise location under the fuselage, as can be seen in the tweets mentioned below:
According to the reports published by South Korean media, “The jet took to the air around six and a half years after its mammoth development project kicked off despite skepticism over technological obstacles, cost-effectiveness, and other feasibility questions.” However, as per the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (or DAPA), “As we get a step closer to the successful development of the homegrown fighter, this symbolizes a new leap in domestic aviation technology and the rise of the strong high-tech military.”
This locally built fighter jet is a “4.5 generation fighter jet” as said by DAPA and still falls in the category of new and modernized aircrafts which have been manufactured since the 1990s and onwards. But we cannot call it a “stealth fighter” because it is devoid of a “primary design driver” and “advanced sensor fusion” that have been integrated into the fifth-generation stealth fighters. However, the Block I phase of this project consists of an “active electronically scanned array system” and an “infrared search and track” system to lock the aerial targets.
On that count, the estimated value of this project is $6.67 billion, or 8.8 trillion won. Moreover, the defense authorities of South Korea are planning to complete a fleet of about 120 Block I aircrafts by 2032 and shift the focus towards modernizing the Block II aircrafts. Apart from all these recent developments, there are still some shortcomings that may cause hindrance in its way, including the issue of Indonesia’s “commitment to the program” and some payment delays in the acquisition of these fighter jets. Moreover, this was the first flight of KF-21, so we don’t know what kind of issues may arise in other planned test flights. But above all, we wish best regards to the defense authorities of South Korea in the extension of this program.