on 1 March, 2021, South Korea’s Defence Acquisition Programme Administration (DAPA) announced that assembly of the first prototype of the Korean Fighter eXperimental (KF-X) fighter aircraft is almost complete, with manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) set to formally roll out the platform in April.
A total of six prototypes are in the final stages of assembly at the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in Sacheon, Gyeongsang Province. Test flights will be carried out next year, following ground testing after the April roll-out.
Jung Kwang-sun, head of the KF-X programme at DAPA, said the planned rollout event of the twin-engined multirole fighter will be a “landmark moment” for the country and the aerospace industry. ”After working only with the blueprint so far, we will now have something we can actually see and test whether what we have been studying actually works,” Jung was quoted by the Yonhap News Agency as saying at KAI headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province.
The KRW8.8 trillion (USD7.8 billion) KF-X fighter project is meant to provide a replacement for the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (RoKAF’s) fleet of F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II combat aircraft. Development of the KF-X began in 2015 and is expected to be completed by 2026, with the RoKAF set to acquire 40 units by 2028 and another 80 units by 2032, according to Yonhap.
Images released by DAPA show the first prototype has already been fitted with the F414-GE-400K engines provided by US manufacturer General Electric (GE) Aviation. The prototype, which will be painted in dark grey prior to the rollout event, is expected to make its maiden flight in 2022.
The KF-X project is an “evolutionary development” project which is divided into two phases. The first phase, or the Block I stage, is about developing the basic system of the fighter jet from 2016 to 2026. The second phase, or the Block II stage which would be carried out from 2026 to 2028, is about adding more weapon systems.
While the core equipment of the KF-X has been developed with domestic technologies, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track (IRST) equipment, electro-optical target tracking (EO TGP) devices and electronic warfare (EW) suite, the target ratio of localization is 65 percent, in terms of the total costs of the parts used for the jet.
With 10 stations on the jet, about 50 different weapons combinations that weigh up to 7.7 tons can be carried. The total fuel capacity of the jet is 5.3 tons and it has aerial refuelling capability.