KF21 Ceremonial First Flight

ARA has supported the development of the Korean KF-X fighter plane since 2015, and that plane, now known as the KF-21 made its ceremonial first flight from the Republic of Korea Air Force base next to KAI’s facilities in Sacheon on 28th September.

I attended, along with representatives from Calspan and ONERA, who have also carried out testing of this aircraft. Many other KAI staff, armed forces personnel and suppliers from around the world were also there. The guest speakers included the Korean Defence Minister, the Chairman of the Defence committee in the Korean Government and the President of KAI. Dignitaries also attending were the chiefs of staff of the navy and air force as well as the deputy defence minister of Indonesia

Model 001 of the KF-21, which is also known as the Boramae (“Young Eagle”) took off, circled and landed to much applause and national pride. The porotype aircraft (there will be 8) will continue test flights until 2026 after which the aeroplane will go into full production, with orders confirmed from both the Korean and Indonesian air forces. KAI have major plans to expand sales after that.

The President of KAI explained plans for development of the KF-21 and these were fleshed out in meetings with KAI staff afterwards as far as they might affect ARA.

The aircraft could be developed to incorporate indigenous weapons systems, it could be modified to be truly “stealth” by moving from having weapons suspended under the aircraft to them being integrated, there is discussion of a short take off version for the Korean navy, and of a system of drones flying in parallel with the aircraft up to Mach 0.8.

Some of this is a long way off, some in the next few years. There is a strong possibly that ARA’s involvement with the KF-21 programme will continue. KAI recognise the value we have given to this project through our model design and manufacture and then on to carrying out the most challenging wind tunnel tests of the whole programme. KAI presented ARA with a plaque of appreciation, confirming the high esteem in which they hold us.

Paul Hutchings, ARA CEO

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