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South Korea's KF-21 fighter completes first flight

South Korea's domestically manufactured KAI KF-21 fighter conducted a successful test flight on 19 July 2022. The aircraft faces a rigourous series of evaluations up to 2026 before it is inducted into service. (Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI))

South Korea's domestically developed KF-21 (Boramae) fighter has successfully completed its first test flight.

The flight was conducted by the Republic of Korea Air Force's (RoKAF's) 52nd Test Evaluation Group at Sacheon-si on 19 July. The city is the headquarters of the Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI), which developed the aircraft.

According to a statement from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), the aircraft took off at 3.40 pm and landed at 4.13 pm.

Images of the aircraft in flight, which appeared in social media, show that the KF-21 conducted the flight with its landing gear down. The aircraft was shown to carry four Meteor air-to-air missiles in the semi-recessed, under-belly position.

A DAPA official who spoke to Janes said that the missiles were mock-ups and that no other weapons were carried by the aircraft. “This initial flight test was intended to gauge the basic flight performance of the aircraft. No special avionics or systems were carried,” the official said.

Janes has learnt that an indigenous infrared search and track (IRST) system developed by Hanwha Systems for the KF-21 was also not installed on the flight.

“The aircraft flew for 33 minutes in total and the flight went according to plan,” the DAPA official said.

In a statement, DAPA said that the flight shows the capabilities of domestic development to build a 4.5-generation, high-tech fighter aircraft. “It symbolises a new leap in domestic aviation technology,” DAPA added.

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