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ADEX 2021: KAI reveals FA-50 ‘loyal wingman' concept for KF-21

A screenshot from a KAI concept video released during ADEX 2021 that shows a manned KF-21 future fighter operating in concert with a swarm of unmanned FA-50 loyal wingmen. (KAI)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has revealed its concept for an unmanned version of the company's FA-50 Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft that could serve as a ‘loyal wingman' for the manned KF-21 Boramae future fighter it is also developing.

A computer-generated video of the KF-21 flying in concert with a swarm of three unmanned FA-50 aircraft was released by the company to coincide with the Seoul International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) taking place from 19 to 24 October.

In converting the manned FA-50 into an unmanned loyal wingman, the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) will be able to add much-needed mass to its planned KF-21 fleet at a comparatively low procurement and operating cost. Capable of carrying a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, these wingmen could serve as autonomous fighters and/or ground attack platforms being controlled from the KF-21, as ‘suicide' weapons in their own right, or as decoys for the manned fighter. Their radars and other sensors could also be networked with those of the KF-21 to provide a much larger and detailed picture of the future air battlespace.

The RoKAF is acquiring more than 140 T-50 Golden Eagle trainer and FA-50 Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft in the coming years, and has disclosed plans to field up to 120 KF-21 future fighter aircraft by 2032.

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