South Korea begins testing semi-stealth fighter

(ORDO NEWS) — The new machine should be noticeably different from the rest of the existing ones in a number of ways. It is assumed that it will also be exported, like a number of other advanced models of South Korean weapons.

The aircraft manufacturer Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) on July 2 this year began ground testing of the KF-21 Borama (translated as “young bird of prey”) in the city of Sacheon.

So far, this is only the ground part – taxiing and jogging around the airfield. However, they are performed by a completely real first flight copy of the new fighter. In autumn, according to the plan, the first flights will follow.

The KF-21 Borama differs from existing aircraft of both the fourth and fifth generations. The fourth generation actively uses weapons on an external sling, which allows such aircraft to carry a large range of weapons of a serious mass.

Aircraft of the fifth generation are forced to carry weapons on an internal sling – this way it is less noticeable in the radio range.

But the mass and number of weapons are sharply reduced. Let’s say the first fifth-generation F-22 fighter could initially carry only six small missiles.

In order for such machines to have numerous means of destruction, it was necessary to design special missiles adapted to their internal dimensions.

For example, this is the case with the Su-57, for which Russia has created a special Kh-38 cruise missile, as well as a number of other munitions.

The Korean manufacturer decided to go the other way. His aircraft are built to meet the requirements of radio visibility, like fifth-generation fighters. At the same time, the basic version of the combat load for them is on an external sling.

It is alleged that in total at the points of external suspension, he will be able to carry up to 7.6 tons of bombs, missiles or external fuel tanks, increasing the range of the vehicle. Such a load is quite at the level of the American F-35 and noticeably more than that of the F-22.

It is also often referred to as the “4.5 generation fighter”, since such an ideology of the aircraft means that in practice it will be invisible at the level of fourth generation aircraft, but at the same time carry a radar with AFAR (active phased antenna array) and software at the level of fifth generation aircraft.

There are also optical and thermal imaging passive systems for searching and targeting enemy aircraft.

Interestingly, the Koreans claim that the radar of their new car is better than that of Russian or Chinese aircraft.

Meanwhile, today no country outside of Russia has accurate information about the capabilities of the Su-57 radars, which makes such claims unverifiable.

The developer also notes that the future modification of the KF-21 Block 2 will receive large compartments for the internal placement of weapons: this will reduce its radio visibility to the level of the F-117. KF-21 Block 3 will receive even less radio visibility, closer to the F-22.

South Korea begins testing semi stealth fighter 2

The big advantage of the KF-21 is often cited as its price, which is said to be lower than that of the F-35. Due to this, they plan to promote the aircraft in foreign markets – starting with Indonesia. In practice, the prospects for the aircraft are now not entirely clear.

Based on the experience of air battles in Ukraine, it is not yet quite obvious that stealth in the radio range really allows aircraft to actively operate in the field of someone else’s air defense.

If so, the fate of fifth-generation fighters could be difficult, because their stealth limits other technical parameters of combat aircraft and significantly increases their price.

It is possible that for future aircraft they will choose the path “in the middle” – between stealth and other important parameters.


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