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South Korea has earmarked 238.7 billion won ($178.6 million) for the Defense Ministry to mass produce 40 KF-21 Boramae fighter jets within the year, despite the aircraft still undergoing various tests.
This move aims to modernize the South Korean Air Force’s fleet by replacing older models with the KF-21, which is expected to become the new cornerstone of the country’s air defense capabilities. The first batch of these advanced fighters is slated for deployment in the latter half of 2026, with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) leading the manufacturing efforts.
The KF-21 Boramae is designed to supplant the aging F-4 and F-5 fleets, with a plan to integrate approximately 120 units into the Air Force by 2032. This initiative is part of a broader strategy to bolster South Korea’s defensive posture against potential aggressions, particularly from North Korea, by enhancing its three-axis defense system. Development of the KF-21, which began in 2015, saw significant progress in 2020 with the assembly of the first prototypes in collaboration with Lockheed Martin for technological support.
In addition to its primary air-to-air mission capabilities, the KF-21 is being equipped with state-of-the-art avionics, including active electronically scanned array radars, and will carry an assortment of advanced precision weapons. DAPA and KAI are working on integrating long-range missiles into the KF-21 to enhance its competitiveness in the global market, with various missile systems already under testing in collaboration with European arms manufacturer MBDA.
Despite Indonesia’s delayed payments, the program’s total cost is estimated at 8.8 trillion won, with funding contributions from South Korea, KAI, and Indonesia.