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Update: South Korea to test AESA fighter radar

South Korea is preparing to test the performance of its indigenously developed active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, meant for integration into the KF-21 fighter aircraft.

The announcement, which was made by the country's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), specified that the domestic flight-testing, scheduled to start from mid-March, will “verify and supplement” the performance of the radar system.

The tests will “mitigate risks associated with the initial development of the radar system for deployment aboard fighter jets”, and help “optimise the development of software”, a DAPA statement said.

The tests will continue until April 2023. DAPA said the system will be mounted on Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI's) KF-21 fighter aircraft in 2023 and developmental and operational test evaluation will continue up to the first half of 2026.

Employing a Boeing 737 as the testbed, the radar system will be tested across 62 evaluation categories over the course of 50 flights. The tests are intended to verify the radar's detection and performance.

DAPA told Janes that the evaluation categories consist of “checking each function of the radar, such as searching/tracking and ground mapping”. DAPA stated that other detailed items cannot be mentioned at this time. Another important parameter of the testing is to determine the system's ability to acquire synthetic aperture radar (SAR) images in air-to-air mode, said DAPA.

Comprising about 1,000 small transceiver modules in the antenna, the AESA system can detect and track more than 1,000 targets simultaneously, South Korean officials have said.

The AESA radar project began in 2016. Development of the radar was led by South Korean firm Hanwha Systems in collaboration with the Agency for Defense Development (ADD), a subsidiary of DAPA.

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