Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has displayed a model of the KF-21N, carrier-borne fighter at the Defense Expo Korea 2022, Alert 5 first noted.
The aerospace company stressed that the KF-21N is just a concept to demonstrate the possibility of developing a naval version of the KF-21.
Specifications of the naval fighter is the same as its land counterpart except for the tail hook catapult bar and wing folding mechanism.
The KF-21N in fact features a US-made F414-GE-400K twin engine used for KF-21, a maximum speed of Mach 1.6, a maximum onboard weight of 7,620kg, a maximum takeoff weight of 25,600kg, a total length of 17.1m, an overall height of 5.2m, and a width of 12.3m. KF-21N has the same maximum thrust and maximum takeoff weight as KF-21, which features a maximum payload of 7,700kg, a total length of 16.9m, an overall height of 4.7m, and a width of 11.2m.
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.
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.
In February 2021, the Defense Ministry formalized a CVX project to develop a light aircraft carrier. Originally, the defense ministry came up with the idea of building a 30,000-ton light aircraft carrier manned by more than 400 crew members, causing debate over whether South Korea really needs an expensive ship for far-seas operations.
According to Aju Business Daily, since South Korea is not able to gain a quantitative advantage over Northeast Asia, it has envisioned a smart navy to cope with an ever-growing arms race with its neighboring countries.
South Korea’s naval buildup program is basically aimed at keeping North Korea in check. Nevertheless, military leaders think about a naval fleet covering the ocean beyond coastal waters.
The CVX project can be ditched if the defense ministry fails to secure national consensus and parliament approval. The ministry should also solve a dispute over the type of ship lanes. ROKAF commanders have favored F-35B, the short take-off and vertical landing variant of Lockheed Martin’s F-35A stealth fighters. The F-35B armed with two precision-guided bombs and two air-to-air missiles can destroy a ballistic missile some 1,300 kilometers away.
On the other hand, critics say F-35Bs have limitations in removing ballistic missiles hidden in tunnels. Defense firms have supported a bigger aircraft carrier to accommodate the variant of homemade fighter jets.
In the following video you can see the model of the KF-21N displayed at the Defense Expo Korea 2022.
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