KF-21 Test Flights Set For Early June, Twin-Seat Variant Being Assembled

Credit: South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration

South Korea will bring forward the maiden flight of its Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae fighter from July to early June following the smooth development of the first prototype aircraft.

According to South Korean news outlet Munwha, the flight will take place on the week of June 6 to coincide with Memorial Day, which commemorates those who died in military service. Two twin-seat variants are also currently being assembled. 

KAI will conduct engine tests in Feburary and high-speed taxi tests in March, according to military sources cited by Munwha. The first aircraft—s/n 001—is already fully fitted out for tests, while 002 has its engines installed and airframe assembly for 003 and 004 is complete. Construction is currently underway on aircraft 005 and 006, which are twin-seat versions. Photos circulating in South Korean media show the lengthened cockpit. 

The six prototypes will carry out an estimated 2,241 test flights over four years. Seventeen pilots and 10 ground crew will be selected for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) 52 Test Evaluation Group, working from the air base in Sacheon, which is home to KAI’s headquarters. 

Tests are set to commence imminently on the KF-21 Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA). Aerospace DAILY understands that the budget for the testing is estimated at around KRW60.1 billion ($50 million) and will involve the evaluation of air-to-air, air-to-ground and air-to-surface modes of the radar. The testbed is a 737-500 registered as ZS-TFJ, owned by Africa Aircraft Maintenance Pty Ltd. A report by local newspaper JoongAng suggests tests of a KF-21 equipped with the AESA could begin in 2023.

Editor's note: This article was updated Jan. 25, adding detail on KF-21 Active Electronically Scanned Array testing.

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.

Kim Minseok

Kim Minseok covers South Korean defense. He has worked as a journalist for South Korean military magazines Military Review and Defense Times. Mr Kim is also a research fellow at the Korea Defense and Security Forum, a think tank.