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Martin-Baker Elated as S Korea’s KF-21 Makes First Flight

Jay Menon - : Jul 20, 2022 - : 7:42 am

As South Korea successfully completed the maiden flight of its homegrown KF-21 fighter jet on July 19, the applause reverberated even at the ongoing Farnborough International Airshow where Martin-Baker is showcasing a mock up of the aircraft fitted with its latest KR18A ejection seat.

“Martin-Baker is proud and honoured to have been competitively selected for this new aircraft. We have seen first hand the dedication and hard work that KAI and its team put into their successful KT-1 and T-50 aircraft and we have no doubt that the KF-21 will follow the same path,” Andrew Martin, Senior Vice President of Marketing and Business Development, said.

Testing of the KF-21 seat, called the KR18A, has begun and certification is expected by the end of 2022. “We have started building the product model and expected to start deliveries next year,” another official from Martin-Baker informed. The seat is a derivative of the company’s Mk18 escape system.

The KAI KF-21 Boramae with the KR18A took off from an air force base in Sacheon, about 185 miles south of Seoul, and completed a flight of more than 30 minutes, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said in a statement.

The jet, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries as part of a US$6.67 billion project, is meant to replace an aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters while being a cheaper alternative to the American F-35 Lightning II stealth jet. With the successful deployment of the KF-21, South Korea will become the eighth country in the world to domestically develop an advanced supersonic fighter, joining the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, Sweden and a European consortium.

KAI aim to deliver 40 KF-21 aircraft to the Republic of Korea Air Force by 2028 with 80 more aircraft to follow by 2032.

The KF-21 program began in 2015 and has been met with a series of hurdles, including delayed payments from financing partner Indonesia and the refusal of Washington to share key technology patents.

Testing is expected to last for four years with some 2,000 sorties to fly before mass production begins. It’s planned to enter service in 2026. Seoul unveiled the prototype of the KF-21 in April 2021 and has announced plans to have at least 40 of the jets combat-ready by 2028 and 120 by 2032.


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