The dual-seat KF-21 will serve not only to train pilots to fly the Boramae: in fact, it will be developed into an electronic warfare aircraft.
The first two-seat Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae (Hawk) performed the maiden flight from Sacheon on Feb. 20, 2023.
The flight lasted 34 minutes and involved KF-21 number 004.
The KF-21 Boramae (Hawk) conducted its successful first flight on Jul. 19, 2022 and is currently designed to be a “4.5+” gen fighter intended to be one of the most capable in its class with its “stealthy” low-RCS design. Being larger than the F-35, KF-21 will be significantly more capable than the latest F-16V and eventually replace F-16Us in Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) service.
The KF-21 is aimed at replacing the ROKAF’s dated McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantom II and Northrop F-5 fighter jets.
As we have already explained, ROKAF has officially ordered feasibility study to upgrade KF-21 into a “5.5th gen” fighter jet.
This is ROKAF’s first acknowledgement that they’re pursuing possible development of 5th gen fighter jet. If ROKAF approves of such program following its internal feasibility study, the proposed “Block III” upgrade program could commence after 2026/2028.
ROKAF could also pursue a larger aircraft based on the KF-21 platform, dubbed KF-XX, instead of Block III program. This would be a similar upgrade from legacy F/A-18 Hornet to F/A-18E Super Hornet, or F-15 Eagle to F-15E Strike Eagle.
According to Scramble, so far four of the KF-21 versions have started flight tests, some 110 flights were carried out, the fifth (single seat) and sixth (two-seat) prototypes are scheduled to have their maiden flight also in the first half of 2023.
The dual-seat KF-21 will serve not only to train pilots to fly the Boramae: in fact, it will be developed into an electronic warfare aircraft and it is envisioned that Unmanned Aerial Vehicles will be controlled from the rear-seat for battlefield drone missions.
Full scale manufacturing is scheduled to begin in 2026. South Korea expects to deploy 40 jets by 2028 and 120 by 2032.
Photo credit: Korean Aerospace Industries