A total of six prototypes are in the final stages of assembly at the Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in Sacheon, Gyeongsang Province. Test flights will be carried out next year, following ground testing after the April roll-out.
Industry officials expressed expectations that the KF-X would not only help accelerate domestic production of fighter jet parts but also bring about a considerable economic effect, creating jobs for about 110,000 people during the full development period planned through 2028. Since the KAI embarked on the KF-X development project in 2016 after winning the contract from the government the previous year, the project has created jobs for more than 10,000 people as of 2020, according to the company.
Officials also expressed expectations that the KF-X fighter jets will compete in the global market with fifth-generation fighter jets such as the U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin's F-35 and F-22, based on price and technology competitiveness. According to the KAI, the KF-X is designed as a 4.5-generation jet whose basic hardware and platform could be used for further development and conversion into a fifth-generation one with improved "stealth" technologies.
|A Korea Aerospace Industries official explains the weapon systems of the KF-X fighter jet to reporters at company headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, Feb. 24. Courtesy of Defense Acquisition Program Administration|
"As the KF-X has been equipped with hardware to become a stealth fighter, we are currently exploring ways to apply stealth technologies to the jet, although we have yet to specify details for further developments as the military has yet to present the details necessary for further developments after Block I and Block II stages of the KF-X development project," Jung Kwang-sun, director general of the KF-X Program Group under the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), told reporters who were visiting KAI headquarters, Feb. 24.
The KF-X project is an "evolutionary development" project which is divided into two phases. The first phase, or the Block I stage, is about developing the basic system of the fighter jet from 2016 to 2026. The second phase, or the Block II stage which would be carried out from 2026 to 2028, is about adding more weapon systems.
|The first prototype of South Korea's indigenously developed next generation fighter jet KF-X is being assembled at the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, Feb. 24. Courtesy of Defense Acquisition Program Administration|
While the core equipment of the KF-X has been developed with domestic technologies, including active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, infrared search and track (IRST) equipment, electro-optical target tracking (EO TGP) devices and electronic warfare (EW) suite, the target ratio of localization is 65 percent, in terms of the total costs of the parts used for the jet.
With 10 stations on the jet, about 50 different weapons combinations that weigh up to 7.7 tons can be carried. The total fuel capacity of the jet is 5.3 tons and it has aerial refuelling capability.