South Korean KF-21 Boramae fighter prototypes perform first nighttime flights

South Korea's homegrown KF-21 Boramae fighter jet prototypes have successfully conducted their first nighttime flights, the state arms procurement agency said on March 10. The 3rd and 4th prototypes of the KF-21 conducted the test flights the previous night, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA). It marked the first time that the KF-21 conducted a night flight.

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South Korean KF 21 Boramae fighter prototypes perform first nighttime flights First night flight of the South Korean KF-21 Boramae  (Picture source: South Korean MoD)

The KF-21 Boramae (formerly known as KF-X) is a South Korean-led fighter aircraft development program aiming at producing an advanced multirole fighter for the South Korean and Indonesian air forces. The airframe is stealthier than any 4th-generation fighter but does not carry weapons in internal bays like fifth-generation fighters, though internal bays may be introduced later in development.

The 8.8 trillion won (US$6.8 billion program is led by the South Korean government, which holds 60% of the program's shares. Indonesia took a 20% stake in the program in 2010, and the remaining 20% are held by private partners including the manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The KAI KF-X is South Korea's second domestic fighter jet development program, following the FA-50.

In April 2021, the first prototype was completed and unveiled during a rollout ceremony at the headquarters of KAI at Sacheon Airport. It was officially given the name Boramae (young hawk or fighting hawk). The first test flight was conducted on 19 July 2022, with manufacturing scheduled to begin in 2026. DAPA has a plan for a total of more than 2,000 test flights of the KF-21 by early 2026.
At least 40 aircraft are planned to be delivered by 2028 to replace South Korea's aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 warplanes, with South Korea expecting to deploy a total of 120 aircraft by 2032. It will also be available for the export market.

In Indonesia, the KF-X development program is referred to as the IF-X program. The Jakarta Globe reported that the completed aircraft will receive the designation F-33.