KF-21 is a 4.5 generation aircraft, which will be used along with the F-35 South Korea is purchasing from the US.

In April last year, South Korea unveiled a prototype of the KF-21 Boramae, the country’s first indigenous semi-stealth fighter. In 2015, Seoul and Jakarta agreed to invest $7.6 billion in the program, with Jakarta paying 20% of development costs in return for access to technologies.

Similar to its F-35 and F-22, the KF-21 will also offer the end-user stealth, however, it cannot match the same degree of radar signature reduction which the US 5th Gen fighter duo offers. The KF-21 is thought to have a radar cross-section on par with the Eurofighter Typhoon, but planned upgrades should reduce its radar signature considerably, The War Zone reported.

What limits the KF-21’s stealth capability is the decision to carry weapons externally on six under-wing and four under-fuselage hardpoints. However, the lower stealth profile is accounted for through its more economical price range, and shorter development duration, which came as a result of forgoing the internal weapons bay.

The weapons for the strike variant are already a part of the Republic of Korea Air Force arsenal. The Paveway II laser-guided bombs, GBU-39 Bombs, and GBU-31 Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs, plus CBU‐105 Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser kits are some such munitions.

The aircraft is expected to be able to carry a payload as heavy as 16,975 pounds and maintain a top speed of Mach 1.83. The KF-21 seems to have a performance edge over the F-35A in some respects as it boasts an effective range of approximately 1,800 miles. South Korea’s Hanwha Systems has indigenously produced an active electronically scanned AESA radar, which can complement long-range weapons such as the MBDA’s Meteor air-to-air missile.

In view of the Chinese belligerence in the South and East China seas, Indonesia intends to procure 50 KF-21s. Jakarta is also looking to procure air defense and strike variants that Korea Aerospace Industries is working on.

The unveiling of the K1-21 stealth fighter has not only been lauded for being the country’s first indigenous stealth fighter but also for the fact that it is the eighth country in the world to have successfully developed an advanced supersonic fighter aircraft of 4.5 generations, or above.


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