South Korea on Friday officially unveiled the first prototype of KF-21 Boramae (보라매, Korean for “hawk”) at a ceremony in Seoul.
Six prototypes of the fighter that was previously known as KF-X (Korea Fighter Experimental) will be produced for ground and flight testing before entering mass production phase in the next few years. Up to 40 units of the first production batch are expected to be made in 2028.
“A new era of independent defense has begun, and it’s a historic milestone in the development of the [South Korean] aviation industry,” the President of South Korea, Moon Jae-in, said at the launching ceremony at the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) facility in Sacheon. “When full-scale mass production begins, 100,000 additional jobs will be created and we’ll have an added value of 5.9 trillion Korean won (US$ 5.2 billion). The effect will be much greater if they’re exported.”
Indonesian defense minister Prabowo Subianto also attended the launching ceremony after he received a formal invitation form the South Korean government. The country had invited Indonesia in 2010 as a partner in the KF-X project development with an agreement that 80% of the costs would be shared by South Korea and 20% by Indonesia.
It was reported that Indonesia is likely to withdraw from the project due to disagreements over financing, technology transfer and production share, but indications are that Indonesia is still committed to the project. The two countries had conducted several rounds of negotiations prior to the launching ceremony.
“In particular, I thank the Indonesian government for becoming a partner who believed in the potential of South Korea,” said Moon Jae-in in his speech in response to the video by his Indonesian counterpart that was also displayed at the ceremony.
“In 2010, Indonesia and [South] Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding about fighter plane development […] to fulfil the need of a main weapon system in the form of jet fighters for both countries for the next 30 to 40 years.” said the President of Indonesia, Joko Widodo, in his pre-recorded speech for the event. “I hope that the success of the launching of the first KF-X prototype will keep giving positive benefits towards defence collaboration between Indonesia and [South] Korea.”
Other than to replace their aging F-4 Phantom II and F-5 Tiger II jet fighters, South Korea is also planning to market the KF-21 to other countries. With a projected price of US$ 65 million each, it is believed that KF-21 has a competitive edge in the global export market.
The KF-21 Boramae is a multi-role, low observable, 4.5th generation jet fighter designed and built by South Korea. With two General Electric F414 as its engines, it’s capable of reaching a maximum speed of Mach 1.8. It’s also able to reach supercruise with external weapon load of four Meteor air to air missiles.
Indonesia is planning to produce up to 40 KF-21 that will be adjusted for operational requirements in the country. According to sources, the Indonesian version will be designated as F-33 and is projected to equip between two to three Indonesian Air Force squadrons from 2026.
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