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Milestones: KF-21 Boramae

South Korea's KF-21 Boramae (Hawk) combat jet underwent its first test flight on 19 July 2022. (Korea Aerospace Industries)

Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI's) KF-21 Boramae (Hawk) 4.5-generation fighter aircraft project has survived financial shortfalls and skepticism to mature during the past two decades. The evolution of the programme also reflects the strides made by the country's defence industry.

When in service, the KF-21 is expected to be deployed in single-seat and two-seat configurations. It is expected to be armed with a range of air-to-air and air-to-ground munitions.

At the roll-outof the KF-21 in April 2021, then South Korean President Moon Jae-in said a β€œnew era of independent defence has begun. It is a historic milestone in the development of the aviation industry [in South Korea]”. Moon also said that Seoul hoped to deploy an initial batch of 40 aircraft by 2028.

The successful transition of the project from conception to flight testing also enabled South Korea to join a select group of countries that have developed advanced, supersonic combat jets. These nations include China, France, India, Japan, Russia, Sweden, and the United States, plus a European consortium comprising Germany, Italy, Spain, and the United Kingdom.

However, prospects for the programme were not always positive. Launched in 2001 by then President Kim Dae-jung, the fighter aircraft had an intended developmental period of 14 years. The KF-21 – then known as the KF-X – was originally scheduled for its first flight in 2015. Financial shortfalls and doubts about the viability of the project created delays.

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