South Korea’s first KF-21 fighter jets ready to take off

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Intermediate evaluation in 2023, final evaluation in 2026

The KF-21 program, dubbed KF-X, is the largest defense project ever undertaken by the South Korean government. The development of the KF-21 fighter jets requires 8.8 trillion won ($6.7 trillion), of which Indonesia will contribute 20%.

The main objectives of the project are to replace the F-4 and F-5 – obsolete fighter jets operated by the South Korean Air Force for more than 30 years – and to independently develop new combat aircraft. generation equipped with the capabilities required for the future battlefield. environment. The KF-21 program paved the way for South Korea to independently produce fifth and sixth generation fighter jets.

In this context, the KF-21 program also aims to quickly greenlight mass production in the first quarter of 2024, Colonel Noh Ji-man, who leads the KF-X program group at Defense Acquisition, said Wednesday. Program Administration (DAPA). during a press briefing at KAI headquarters.

To this end, the KF-21 fighter prototypes should pass an intermediate test to assess and measure their combat readiness, Col. Noh said, adding that the test will be scheduled for November 2023.

The interim evaluation will focus on examining the compliance of the KF-21 fighter prototypes with the operational capabilities required by the South Korean Air Force.

The final full-scale evaluation of the operational effectiveness and suitability of the KF-21s will be carried out in 2026, when the first stage of the KF-21 development project is expected to be completed.

The KF-X program consists of two stages over 13 years, from 2015 to 2028. The first stage focuses on the development of aircraft and integrated logistics systems between 2015 and 2026. The second phase aims to develop aircraft capabilities for conduct air-to-ground operations. mission between 2026 and 2028.

KF-21 Development Strategy: Competition
The KF-21 development strategy aims to simultaneously advance development and production.

The approach is analogous to the “concurrency” strategy of the F-35 program, in which the development and production phases overlap. But critics have argued that the approach is malpractice and raised concerns about technical shortcomings and security.

Colonel Noh explained that the fast-track process will protect defense contractors against technical obsolescence, cost increases and human resource drain.

“This strategy aims to protect our country’s defense industry and maintain its technological capabilities,” Colonel Noh said. “If we seek to sign contracts and start production after 2026, it will be difficult for companies to maintain technology, production lines and personnel by increasing the burden of maintenance expenses.”

A total of 1,103 KAI personnel have been involved in the KF-21 program since this year, according to the company.

If South Korea completes ground and flight testing by 2026, it will be the eighth country in the world to have independently developed advanced supersonic fighter jets.

But Noh said South Korea will have to overcome various obstacles, including rising production costs that would be affected by the COVID-19 pandemic, the global supply chain crisis and the war in Ukraine. South Korea has done everything possible to minimize the impact of rising raw material costs and supply chain shortages.

“Developing a fighter jet is not an easy task, and it doesn’t happen overnight,” Colonel Noh said. “We will inevitably face other challenges, but we hope that we will always enjoy support and encouragement, which is the source of our power to overcome such challenges.”

Ji Da-gyum

The Korean Herald

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