Military Aviation

KAI starts final assembly of KF-X Next Generation fighter first prototype

KF-X is one of the most important national project to replace current Republic of Korea Air Force aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced that final assembly of KF-X prototype is now launched from Sep. 1, 2020. Final assembly means to put forward/middle/rear fuselage and main wing/empennage together into one whole final aircraft.

This achievement is accomplished only in 4 years. KAI started system development in 2015, went through PDR (Preliminary Design Review) in 2018, began the first detail part machining on February 2019 and passed the CDR (Critical Design Review) on September 2019.

KF-X is one of the most important national project to replace current Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters and to introduce the next generation fighter that can satisfy the future operation concept of force battlefield. Also, KAI is under localization of major avionics part for product improvement by domestic technology. Mission and flight control computer, equivalent to its brain, will be installed to KF-X for ground test and test flight after performance test this year.

In addition, the core equipment AESA radar and EW Suite (Integrated Electronic Warfare Equipment), IRST (infrared search and track) and EO TGP (electro optical targeting pod) are Verify performance through functional check and ground test.

KF-X will be completed by the first half year of 2021 and the first flight test is scheduled to be done in 2022. By 2026, system development is ended.

For deeper study and efficient development, 16 of universities, 11 of laboratories and 553 of suppliers are participated in KF-X project and 100 of additional development engineers will be hired by 2020.

KAI CEO said, “Thanks to great partnership and industry, university and institute collaboration, we could launch the final assembly in covid-19 crisis. There is no way other than success. We will succeed in KF-X and contribute to Korean aviation industry and national economy.”

According to KAI, the aircraft is designed to be able to fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.81, with its flying range reaching 2,900 kilometers. It bears outward similarities to the fifth-generation F-35A already in service with ROKAF.

With a maximum payload of 7,700 kilograms, the fighter is capable of installing 10 pods for missiles and fuel barrels, Yonhap News reported. It will be able to carry several types of air-to-air missiles, such as Germany’s IRIS-T and European developer MBDA’s active radar guided Meteor missiles.

Photo credit: KAI

Dario Leone

Dario Leone is an aviation, defense and military writer. He is the Founder and Editor of “The Aviation Geek Club” one of the world’s most read military aviation blogs. His writing has appeared in The National Interest and other news media. He has reported from Europe and flown Super Puma and Cougar helicopters with the Swiss Air Force.

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