KAI’s Airlifter Concept Leaked Online

Credit: Korea Aerospace Industries video

SINGAPORE—Korea Aerospace Industries' (KAI) concept for a future indigenous airlifter and its proposed capabilities have been leaked online.  

The computer-generated model of the aircraft shown in videos published online strongly resemble the configuration of the Brazilian Embraer KC-390 and the Japanese Kawasaki C-2 military, with a high wing configuration and two turbofan engines.  

KAI was not immediately available for comment at the time of writing. But a source familiar with the Korean defense scene confirmed the video’s legitimacy.  

In the video seen by Aerospace DAILY, the unnamed aircraft’s standard configuration suggests it could carry and drop airborne vehicles, potentially putting the airlifter in a similar size category to the both the C-2 and the Airbus A400M. 

Other missions proposed for the platform include functioning as a mother ship for unmanned aerial vehicle swarms, an aerial refueling variant with retractable boom, and an acting airborne launch platform for “satellite-killing” missiles.  

Four to eight underwing pylons also enable the aircraft to carry munitions for anti-submarine and anti-surface operations.  

Aviation Week Data Services shows the Republic of Korea Air Force’s primary airlift capabilities are provided by 16 Lockheed Martin C-130H/J Hercules aircraft and four Airbus A330 Multi Role Tanker Transports.  

KAI currently has development and manufacturing capabilities for a series of smaller combat aircraft, most notably the T/FA-50 Golden Eagle and the recently unveiled KF-21 Boramae. It has never ventured into large aircraft production, although it is one of the prime contractors for Boeing and Airbus commercial aircraft components, as well as the fuselage and wings for Gulfstream G280s. 

Chen Chuanren

Chen Chuanren is the Southeast Asia and China Editor for the Aviation Week Network’s (AWN) Air Transport World (ATW) and the Asia-Pacific Defense Correspondent for AWN, joining the team in 2017.