It is rare that a program as complex as the development of a new combat aircraft does not experience any delays. This is all the more remarkable when it is the first combat aircraft developed by an aeronautical industry that is straddling the new generation.
However, this is indeed what the South Koreans of the South Korean group KAI are about to accomplish with the KF-21 Boramae program, while the 6th and last of the planned prototypes has just made a first flight of 33 minutes in Gyeongnam-do in the south of the country (in main illustration).
The program now has four single-seater aircraft, Nos. 1, 2, 3 and 5; as well as two two-seater versions, No. 4 and 6. to complete their tests, explore the flight envelope and test and validate the electronic equipment and armaments of the aircraft, less than a year after the first flight of the 'device.
A month ago, the KF-21 had also obtained, as such, a first partial combat qualification , while it is planned that the aircraft will receive its full combat capability from 2026, during its entry into service to replace the F-4 and F-5 still in service with the South Korean air force.
It should be noted, in this respect, that in the event that the final phases of the program take place according to the schedule hitherto respected to the letter, the KF-21 Boramae would reach full operational capacity, and would go into series production, before that the F-35A does not do so , even though the South Korean program was only launched in 2010, i.e. 15 years after that of the Lightning II.
It is true that the two programs are difficult to compare, the F-35 being significantly more advanced in the areas of stealth, data fusion and sensors. However, such a gap, also amplified by the fact that it was a first for the South Korean aeronautical industry, tends to demonstrate all the structural imbalances which handicap the American program, and seriously hamper its the good proceedings.
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