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UAE boards South Korean KF-21 Boramae

The SC

Feb 13, 2012
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September 15, 2023


The United Arab Emirates and South Korea signed a Memorandum of Understanding allowing Abu Dhabi to join the KF-21 Boramae program, the South Korean mid-generation fighter currently in the testing phase, replacing Jakarta in settling Indonesian debt within the program.

This will give food for thought, particularly in the United States and France. Indeed, according to the South Korean press, the two countries have signed around forty Memorandum of Understanding representing $30 billion in investments in different areas ranging from nuclear energy to hydrogen, but also defense.

The most spectacular announcement undoubtedly concerns the participation of the Emirates in the South Korean KF-21 Boramae intermediate generation fighter program. More specifically, Abu Dhabi will pay the contribution owed by Jakarta, which is currently hampering the program, as well as relations between the two countries, to join the program.

The KF-21 Boramae to replace the United Arab Emirates' F-16s?​

Naturally, this would make the KF-21 the preferred candidate to eventually replace the Emirati F-16, to evolve alongside the 80 Rafale previously ordered. The stakes are however considerable for Seoul, since this market represents a potential order of 60 to 80 aircraft, if we base ourselves on strict parity with the Rafale, as was previously the case between the Mirage 2000-9 and the F -16 E BLock 60.

Such an order would, in fact, give increased legitimacy to the new South Korean apparatus, which has also aroused Warsaw's interest in the creation of its last two fighter squadrons.

A promising device with high performance​

16,9 m long with a wingspan of 11,2 m, the Boramae is a medium fighter in the F/A 18 Super Hornet, Rafale and Typhoon category, with an empty mass of 11,8 tonnes, and a maximum takeoff weight of 25,6 tonnes.

It is powered by two American GE F414 turbojet engines like the Super Hornet, each delivering 5,7 tonnes of dry thrust, and 9,8 tonnes of thrust with afterburner. The device therefore has an excellent thrust-to-weight ratio, close to one in combat mass.

In addition, it was designed for a reduced radar and infrared signature, without being described as stealthy. In its current version, it does not have interior ammunition bays, which tends to degrade its radar signature, like other aircraft in its category.


With 6 tonnes of internal fuel capacity, and two additional 2000 liter drop tanks, the KF-51 has a comfortable combat range of 1 km. It also has modern avionics, including the European Meteor, Iris-t and Taurus, but also the AIM-000 AMRAAM, the Sidewinder 120X and the American Harpoon, as well as a wide range of munitions. air-ground like the famous JDAM.

South Korea's effective trade strategy​

Due to its performance and ambitions, the KF-21 is in no way a second category aircraft, quite the contrary. Moreover, its selling price, estimated between $80 and $100 million, places it in the average range for devices in its category.

In addition, the program unfolds with Korean precision, with six prototypes already delivered, four single-seaters and two two-seaters, barely a year after the flight of the first aircraft. This naturally strengthens the confidence of potential partners, particularly in its ambitious timetable, with the start of industrial production in 2024, and entry into service in 2026.


On the other hand, like the K2 Black Panther or the K9 Thunder, two great export successes of the South Korean industry, the device will be the most recent fighter of this type on the market, where precisely, the conception age of its three designated competitors is often talked about negatively.

Above all, the agreement apparently reached with the Emirates and Indonesia shows that Seoul is demonstrating the same flexibility and responsiveness here as that which allowed it to impose itself in Poland, for example, in what has become the largest land equipment contract signed in the last 20 years.

A direct threat to the French aeronautical industry​

In fact, the MoU that the Emiratis and South Koreans have just signed sounds like a final warning for American and European defense manufacturers, and in particular for France, who have for too long refused to consider these emerging countries as real partners. , and not as simple customers.

By doing so, they have allowed Seoul, as well as Ankara and Jerusalem, to capture considerable and growing market shares, which will be lacking to maintain the activity of European BITDs in the years to come. Sometimes, through their intransigence, but also their laxity, the latter have themselves provided the fertile ground on which these competing industries have been able to develop in recent years.

One thing is certain, however. Today, the industrial and commercial strategy implemented by South Korea is reminiscent of that which was applied by France at the end of the 60s and during the XNUMXs. This allowed the country to considerably develop its defense industry and its export market shares.

It would surely be time for Paris to look beyond the Rhine alone, and to turn fully towards these partners who are just waiting to get on board major industrial defense projects with Dassault, Naval Group, Nexter, Thales or MBDA. We have been warned... one final and last time!


* Due to costs and technology limitations, South Korea did not pursue an internal weapons bay for the first two blocks of the KF-21. Korea Aerospace Industries recently announced it is planning to propose a Block 3 variant to the South Korea air force with an internal weapons bay and enhanced low-observable technology features..

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LOL nope, few days ago SK President and Indo President has reaffirmed their commitment to complete KFX/IFX program in Jakarta during ASEAN summit

You need to read Yonhap media to read credible news about KFX/IFX program, but I am happy if UAE wants to join the program.

Having UAE inside the program can potentially bring about 100 potential sales. As Indonesian aerospace is part of KF21 supply chain (wing, pylon, tail), it also means more money and sales for our company.
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LOL nope, few days ago SK President and Indo President has reaffirmed their commitment to complete KFX/IFX program in Jakarta during ASEAN summit

You need to read Yonhap media to read credible news about KFX/IFX program, but I am happy if UAE wants to join the program.

Having UAE inside the program can potentially bring about 100 potential sales. As Indonesian aerospace is part of KF21 supply chain (wing, pylon, tail), it also means more money and sales for our company.

Yoon, Indonesian president agree to strengthen security, economic partnership​

All News
13:32 September 08, 2023

Yoon and Widodo noted the need to strengthen the bilateral special strategic partnership, including through collaboration between the Korea-ASEAN Solidarity Initiative, which centers on enhancing strategic cooperation among South Korea and the 10 ASEAN member states, and the ASEAN Outlook on the Indo-Pacific, which revolves around the cooperation principles of ASEAN centrality, inclusivity, openness and transparency.

In particular, the two agreed to further strengthen arms cooperation and reaffirmed their commitment to successfully completing a joint project to develop KF-21 fighter jets.

Unlikely KF21 is like current one if there is no Indonesia. Any Korean who followed the program since 2009 will understand.

It is due to Indonesia participation that the effort by other Korean to kill the program or downgrade it into KFX-E single engine variant ( proposed by KAI ) is failed.

Korean actually has enough financing capability if they want to do it alone. The are not confident to do it without partner and having a partner is the one that makes the program is started in 2009 (MOU with Indonesia), 2010 (contract with Indonesia), and 2011 ( TD / Technology Development phase) is started where Indonesia participates with 3 institutions (Indonesian Aerospace, Institute Technology Bandung, and Indonesian Air Force senior fighter pilots).

Double engine design made during TD phase gets huge pressure to be scraped and replaced by KFX-E designed by Korean Aerospace as single engine design. Even in 2014, it is KFX - E that is about to be developed, but Alhamdulillah double engine C 103 that is then choosen where it is likely due to potential Indonesian back down if KFX - E is choosen.

KFX old thread made in PDF since 2009 can witness it or Secret Project defense forum KFX thread that is started in 2009.

Basically Poland has already wanted to pay Indonesian finantial obligation since 2022, but until Today SK still want to continue partnering with Indonesia despite current administration seems not really serious in financing the program.

During 2013- 2014, SK administration also delayed the program citing financial difficulties while Indonesia keeps its patience during the period. During that delayed period, Indonesia finance its own fighter R&D program that is intended to help KF21 program once EMD phase is started in 2016. The internal R&D program conducted in Infonesia even keep being continued when EMD is already started in Korea which is intended to make the program successful.

We get this financing drama because SK chooses USA company as Technical Assistant for EMD phase that is startwd in 2016 and it makes Indonesian engineers get technology restriction during EMD development phase. Some in our leadership start to act negatively because of that and halt payment, nevertheless Indonesia has started paying its cost share again since 2022 November.

So unlikely Indonesia participation is scrapped due to curren administration not fulfil our financial obligation fully as many journalist who just followed the program recently like to say.

It is already several times many medias speculate Indonesia will be kick out from the program. Beside dont understand KFX history, those journalists also dont have good knowledge about Indonesian relationship with SK and how this two nations geopolitical weight in the region and its strategic special partnership between the two nations.

Our state budget in 2024 is 216 billion USD with less than 2.5 % of GDP budget deficit and 39 % debt to GDP ratio. Very healty with stable currency and so far good state bond issuance. It is the policy tendency toward R&D program that is the problem and not the money itself if we see our state budget and economy, so the change of policy makers will likely solve our cost share problem in KF21 program and it is very near to happen as next year is our Presidential Election.

Jokowi administration is about to end in November next year and very possible new administration with pro KF21 program will likely emerge. Contrary to many Korean analysists, even next administration under Prabowo will likely solve our KF21 cost share payment as Prabowo will likely use loan to fund the program ( denied by our Planning Minister ) and Ganjar if elected will likely be supported by Democrat party as the initiator of KFX program in Indonesia under SBY administration ( 2004- 2014 ).
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We will see clearer when UAE leader (MBZ) visit South Korea in October.
Regarding the internal bays, it is not impossible and note that the Koreans linked it to the Block 3 developments..

In any case, it is currently possible - if desired - to work with the same American concept as containers ADD ON KIT. This feature includes an airframe that is not yet engineered..

Here are the Block 3 developments for the F-18 Super Hornet: The Enclosed Weapons Pod

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