By Chae Yun-hwan
SEOUL: The sixth and final prototype of South Korea’s homegrown KF-21 Boramae fighter successfully performed its first flight Wednesday, the arms procurement agency said, marking the latest progress in the country’s pursuit to develop an advanced warplane.
The two-seat prototype took off from the Air Force’s 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, at 3:49 p.m. and completed a 33-minute flight, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
The first and second prototypes made their first flights in July and November last year, respectively, while the third, fourth and fifth ones each performed their maiden flights in January, February and May this year.
South Korea launched the 8.8 trillion-won (US$6.74 billion) project in 2015 to develop an advanced supersonic fighter intended to replace the country’s aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets. The final prototype will undergo additional flight tests, such as those on avionics performance and armaments, and flight operation comparison against other single-seat prototypes, according to DAPA.
Of the prototypes, only the fourth and sixth ones have two-seat cockpits. The twin-seater variant of the KF-21 is planned to be used for pilot education and training missions. The six prototypes are set to undergo a combined total of over 2,200 flight tests through the first half of 2026 before the first production model’s planned delivery to the Air Force later that year.
Last month, the fighter jet passed a provisional combat suitability evaluation based on the results of hundreds of flight and ground tests that took place over about two years. The KF-21’s initial production phase is set to begin next year.
The warplane is designed to fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.81, with a flying range of 2,900 kilometers. It will be equipped with advanced technologies, such as an AESA, or active electronically scanned array, radar.