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ADEX 2023: KAI updates MUM-T concept for KF-21

KAI's two-tiered combat MUM-T concept involves a formation of four unmanned fighters paired with a single KAI KF-21 fighter aircraft with an additional three to four smaller air-launched effects (designated by KAI as Adaptable Aerial Platforms) providing additional support. (Janes)

After unveiling a new unmanned fighter (or ‘loyal wingman') programme in support of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 in May 2023, two KAI officials told Janes that the company is also conceptualising air-launched effects (ALEs) to be linked to the unmanned fighter.

Under this evolved two-tiered manned-unmanned teaming (MUM-T) system, KAI's ALEs, which it calls “Adaptable Aerial Platforms” (AAPs), will be slaved to the larger unmanned fighter. This concept was revealed during the International Aerospace & Defense Exhibition (ADEX) 2023 in Seoul. The exhibition is held from 17 to 22 October.

KAI told Janes in May that the development of the loyal wingman started that month but that the “plan was still evolving”. The updated concept now comprises pairing four ‘loyal wingman' unmanned fighters with one KF-21, with three to four AAPs paired to each unmanned fighter.

This is to reduce risk to manned and unmanned fighters (loyal wingmen) within the friendly formation. “As the unmanned fighter will also be an expensive platform, we seek to minimise risk to it by adding AAPs to conduct operations over particularly dangerous battle areas,” said the KAI officials who are members of the KF-21 project team.

“The formation of three to four AAPs per unmanned fighter will be used for roles such as jamming, decoying, intelligence collection, and attack,” the project officials said.

“The AAPs will be placed ahead of the unmanned fighter when the formation is operating in high-risk areas,” they added.

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