South Korea is currently making headlines as it took its first locally-developed fighter aircraft KF-21 Boramae on air last July 19, which took place at an Air Force base in the southern part of the country.

Officials from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) stated that the first test flight of the KF-21 Boramae was executed from the 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon at around 3:40 p.m., which is located approximately 300 kilometers south of Seoul, where the headquarters of the fighter jet’s manufacturer, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) Ltd situates. After a total flight time of 33 minutes, the plane touched down at 4:13 p.m. In addition, the KF-21 reached approximately 400 kilometers per hour while in flight.

Major Ahn Jun-hyun, a South Korean Air Force member, flew the prototype of the KF-21 fighter jet, which had the flags of both South Korea and Indonesia. The primary objective of the KF-21’s first flight was to evaluate fundamental aspects of flying performance, including takeoff and landing. Before beginning thousands of following test flights, this one was meant to check the plane’s structure to ensure it is safe. Before its initial lift-off, tIn addition, the aircraft underwent ground tests, including low-, medium-and high-speed taxi, and engine ignition testing. 

Meanwhile, in response to the implications of the maiden flight, DAPA said, “The project of developing South Korea’s indigenous fighter jets has now entered the stage of test flights and the flight area will be expanded throughout at around 2,000 test flights,” while “The system’s development will be completed in 2026 after verifying various performances and its suitability for air-to-air combat.”


Along with the United States, Russia, China, Japan, France, Sweden, and a European consortium consisting of Britain, Germany, Italy, and Spain, South Korea is now poised to become the eighth country able to manufacture its own supersonic fighter domestically.

About the KF-21 Boramae Fighter Jet:

Prototype of the KF-21 Authorized use by Defense Acquisition Program Administration/Korean Joongang Daily (Source: KF-21ACC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

The KF-21 will supersede South Korea’s F-4 and F-5 fighters. The new aircraft aims to become the flagship of succeeding fighter jets with the capabilities required for the “future battlefield environment.” The South Korean military confirmed to the Korean news agency that the production version of the KF-21 fighter jet was outfitted with “full-scale mock-ups of four Meteors,” which are “beyond visual range air-to-air missiles,” with an infrared search and tracking system. 

With the impetus acquired by the successful completion of the maiden test flight, the Air Force of South Korea and Korea Aerospace Industries will begin 2,200 test flights with six KF-21 fighter prototypes starting this month and will continue until 2026. These tests will evaluate the long term operation of the air craft and its suitability for combat operations. 

In the year 2026, the KF-21s will be put through one last comprehensive test to determine whether or not they are ready for front-line use and full production. Despite this, DAPA plans to complete an interim examination of KF-21 fighter prototypes in 2023. This will allow the organization to simultaneously advance the development and manufacture of KF-21 fighter aircraft.


After beginning the development of the KF-21 fighter jets in December 2015, Korea Aerospace Industries was able to complete a successful test flight in less than seven years. However, plans for development date back to the late President Kim Dae-Jung announcement of South Korea’s intent to manufacture its own warplanes in 2001.

The KF-21 program, given the codename KF-X, is the largest defense project the South Korean government has ever managed. Developing the 5th generation fighter jets will cost 8.8 trillion won ($6.7 trillion), and Indonesia’s contribution will be 20 percent of that total.

Production line of the KF-21, prototype 3,4,5,6 is shown, whereas prototype five will be a twin-seat fighter jet. The photo was taken on 2021/7/14. (Source: KF-21ACC BY-SA 4.0, via Wikimedia Commons)

Advanced or subpar?

The Boramae’s defining features include a “greater operational range, more advanced avionics and electronic warfare capabilities,” and an active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar made in Korea. This radar has enhanced target detection and recognition capability compared to earlier technological advances, leading to “more effective weapons delivery.” In addition, the KF-21 is intended to have basic “radar-evading stealth capabilities.” However, these capabilities are still supposedly subpar in comparison to those of comprehensive stealth aircraft like the F-35. Still, they provide an advantage over possible opponents that do not employ stealth technology. But, does this mean the newly-developed plane will not topple other competitive advances of superpower countries? While the Noth Korean Air Force is comprises more than 1600 aircraft and 800 combat aircraft its most modern fighters are about 70 MiG-29s. The MiG-29 dates back to the 1970s and would need extensive upgrades to its avionics and weapons to have even a small chance against a 5th Generation fighter. 

But whether or not the debut of this fighter jet makes a significant impact on other countries with advanced warfare vehicles, the entrance of KF-21 Boramae marks a growing “arms race” in Asia – prompted by the rapid expansion of the military of Communist China.