South Korea on Friday unveiled the prototype of its new ‘4.5 generation’ fighter dubbed the KF-21 Boramae (young hawk trained for hunting), nearly 20 years after the project to build it was announced.
A fighter of the 4.5 generation is classified as having high manoeuvrability, advanced weapons for air-to-air and air-to-surface missions, features to reduce radar signature and integration of radar and infra-red sensors. A 4.5 generation fighter carries its weapons on external hardpoints on the wings and fuselage, unlike 5th generation aircraft that have internal weapons bays to increase stealth.
South Korean President Moon Jae-in and Indonesian Defence Minister Prabowo Subianto were among the key participants at the launch of the fighter. In 2001, then South Korean president Kim Dae Jung had pledged to develop an indigenous fighter for the country by 2015 to replace its fleet of F-4 and F-5 aircraft.
In 2019, reports emerged Indonesia was backtracking on its commitments to the KF-21 project. Indonesia had agreed to provide $1.3 billion to buy 48 aircraft and also secure transfer of technology for it. However, Indonesia has provided only around $202 million so far, Yonhap reported. South Korea and Indonesia are continuing talks on the project.
History of KF-21
The formal development of the KF-21 fighter began in late 2015. According to South Korea’s Yonhap news agency, the country had allocated $7.9 billion to develop and build 120 KF-21 fighters.
The KF-21, a twin-engine aircraft, is capable of carrying up to 7.7 tonnes of weapons and fuel under its wings and fuselage.