KF-21 Boramae Fighter Jet for the Philippine Air Force?

Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI presented its plans and marketing stint before the Philippine Air Force officials in an event, specifically pointing to the idea of getting at least a squadron or two more FA-50s on top of the first squadron it currently has to-date.

In that presentation, they also marketed this aircraft that, while still in development at the time this article publishes, presents an opportunity for the air service branch of the Armed Forces of the Philippines to get this sophisticated aircraft essential for its implementation of the country's air defense identification zone.

KF-21, KF-21 Boramae, Philippine Air Force, KAI, Korea Aerospace Industries
South Korea's primary aerospace company markets it's currently developing advanced fighter to the Philippine Air Force, on top of its FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer Jets.
Image Source.

The idea of the Philippine Air Force operating far more advanced fighter aircraft that the advanced countries have are still far-fetched, as its current situation brewed between current competitors to the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Project - namely the JAS-39 Gripen Block C/D of the Swedish aerospace company SAAB versus the F-16 Viper of Lockheed Martin. But this does not mean there are no prospects for the air service branch to get marketed and aspired with its own type of advanced fighter aircraft.

In a recent presentation made by Korea Aerospace Industries in a Philippine Air Force symposium held in June 2023 (of which details are available in a separate entry we made), they marketed an idea that primarily focuses on improving the existing capabilities of the air service branch of the Philippine Armed Forces, starting with its existing squadron of FA-50PH subjected to further upgrades to higher variants such as the Block 20 all the way through Block 70.

Adding to that presentation is the idea that the Philippine Air Force comes with at least three (3) squadrons of FA-50s in its operational routines, totalling the number of units to at least thirty-six (36) of such Lead-In Fighter Trainers that the air service branch gets, a squadron more than what the leadership within the air service branch aspires, or what perceives to be in the lineup of acquisition planning under the already-lapsed Horizon 2 phase.

After discussing the upgrade plans and prospects of getting additional FA-50s for the Philippine Air Force to use for its territorial defense and air defense identification zone implementation, Korea Aerospace Industries also seized the opportunity to market their newest development of aircraft to the country's air service branch, which is the KF-21 Boramae advanced multirole fighter aircraft. Apparently, this aircraft is a South Korean-led aircraft that comes with a bit-rocky partnership between them and Indonesia.

Apparently, the Philippine Air Force already monitors any type of development updates regarding the KF-21 Boramae advanced multirole fighter aircraft, signifying intentions that the said aircraft currently under development is within the sight of the air service branch's key planners and has the prospects of pursuing the aircraft upon the maturity of the platform. This means that once production starts and the likes of South Korea started operating the aircraft, it gives viability for the planners to further consider it.

With the presentation and the interest provided in the table of prospects in having such type of advanced multirole fighter aircraft in the next five (5) to ten (10) years down the road, the KF-21 Boramae presented an opportunity for both Korea Aerospace Industries as a seller and the Philippine Air Force as a potential (and not final) buyer to get a capable fighter that secures the country's airspace further, while expanding the South Korean company's market share in fighter aircraft sales in the region.

In this topic, the format comes with the usual development updates of the aircraft up to the time this article gets published, while delving deep into details regarding the specifications of the aircraft and how will it fare with the Philippine Air Force's current multirole fighter jet prospects. Also, other relevant information about the production timelines and details gets tackled further as we move along with the flow of the discussion until the end of this entry.

KF-X, KF-21 Boramae, Philippine Air Force, PAF, KAI, Korea Aerospace Industries
Korea Aerospace Industries produced at least six prototypes of the KF-21 Boramae.
Image Source.

At the time this article publishes, the KF-21 Boramae advanced multirole fighter aircraft still comes at the development phase, whereby Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI still takes multiple test flights, minor design modifications, and securing certifications prior to having the design put into mass production by the aerospace company. So far, there are six (6) prototypes of the aircraft produced to make the tests possible.

Going further back, the KF-21 Boramae is a product conceptualized from the South Korea's first indigenously developed multirole fighter aircraft with sophisticated technologies, whereby the formalities in its development took place in the year 2015 when the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration or DAPA signed with Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI for the development of this sophisticated aircraft. It comes after the U.S. approval of technological transfer used in F-35 fighter.

During that time, when the formalities signed between DAPA and KAI regarding the development of the KF-X fighter aircraft, the Philippine Air Force received its first pair of FA-50PH Lead-in fighter trainer jets from the said South Korean aerospace manufacturer, whereby the delivery phase took three years until it became completed in the year 2017. These lead-in fighter trainer jets of the Philippine Air Force served as the foundation for the South Korean aerospace company to pitch its products later on.

The first prototype for the KF-X (of which it eventually became the KF-21 Boramae) unveiled on April 9, 2021 in Korea Aerospace Industries’ headquarters in Sacheon, of which the former South Korean president Moon Jae-in said in his speech that South Korea “opened a new era of self-defense and established a historic milestone for the development of the aviation industry.” This makes sense as this serves as the country’s first indigenously developed and produced advanced supersonic multirole fighter jet.

KF-21 Boramae’s unveiling of its first prototype succeedingly followed by its first maiden flight, whereby it took place in July 2022, with the jet’s first supersonic flight taking place in January 2023. The progress shown signals the entry of South Korea into a small club of countries that produces supersonic aircraft, whereby marketing it to other countries like the Philippines will expand its prospective market for this segment, while presenting the benefits of the aircraft’s capabilities for the end-users to use in implementing their air defense identification zones.

It is from this period on that other countries, including the Philippines, show its interest in the capabilities that the KF-21 advanced multirole fighter jet brings, although it remains to see regarding the details as there are still improvements getting introduced as its development still comes as ongoing, and with finalizations getting done before the mass production of the aircraft starts, primarily catering the prospective users like the South Korean Air Force.

Even though Korea Aerospace Industries markets it heavily as the additional FA-50s for the Philippine Air Force, it remains to see whether the advanced fighter aircraft comes preferably to get on five years down the road, as the people in the defense department closely monitors the development of the fighter aircraft. This is especially coming in the period that the government prioritizes more on external defense, being its primary highlight for Horizon 3 project implementation.

FA-50PH, KF-21 Boramae, Philippine Air Force, PAF, Korea Aerospace Industries
Both the FA-50s and KF-21 Boramae jets are getting offered to the Philippine Air Force.
Image Source.

In its marketing, the KF-21 Boarame as currently in development by Korea Aerospace Industries comes as a fighter aircraft advancement intended primarily to the Korean Air Force and future prospective export markets, especially that this showcases the willingness of the Korean military industry across the board to improve its technology and eventually expanding by getting a market share for its exported military goods into other countries like the Philippines and its armed forces.

From the overview, the KF-21 Boramae count as a 4.5 generation fighter with smaller radar signature, and also the first one that the Korea Aerospace Industries produced indigenously intended for the country’s air force and for any potential countries that form its export market once the production starts at 2024 as projected in this report. In comparison, an F-16 Viper Multirole Fighter Jet is an advanced 4th generation fighter aircraft, while the JAS-39 Gripen is a lightweight 4+ generation fighter aircraft.

This means that other contemporary stealth fighters such as the F-35 Lightning II (5th Generation fighter) jet by Lockheed Martin come as far more advanced in capabilities than the KF-21 Boramae, although the Korea Aerospace Industries poured resources and support in developing its own indigenous fighter regarded as a significant leap to South Korea’s ever-growing military and defense industry, as they also produce armored vehicles, artillery pieces, and naval vessels like the ones produced for the Philippine Navy.

While the F-35 Lightning II presents itself as a top of the line advanced fighter aircraft by Lockheed Martin, the KF-21 Boramae from Korea Aerospace Industries present itself as a cheaper alternative for the aforementioned US-built fighter aircraft, as this suits the requirements of several air forces in the region and in other areas of the globe, especially on countries that have lesser budget allotments that render far more advanced fighter aircraft more expensive to purchase at its price tag.

The promising price tag that the KF-21 markets are something that countries in Southeast Asia like the Philippines hopes for, as this may likely the market segment that the Korea Aerospace Industries aims to cater itself on, as these countries currently may not afford the acquisition of far more sophisticated military assets like the F-25 Lightning II in large numbers. Another factor that plays here is that several of the countries that South Korea pushes the KF-21 Boramae are also the ones that already operate the T/FA-50 aircraft.

This is the case for the Philippines when the representatives of Korea Aerospace Industries pitched their marketing during a Philippine Air Force event several months ago within the year 2023, whereby they push the KF-21 Boramae aircraft alongside the idea of upgrading the existing FA-50PH to the Block 20 variant and eventually adding at least two more squadrons or 24 more units of FA-50s for the Philippine Air Force. For the full scope of this discussion, kindly check our article on the marketing pitch in a link right here.

Having the countries that operate the FA-50s may help Korea Aerospace Industries advance their marketing of KF-21 Boramae beyond the South Korea market, whereby militaries aside from the Republic of Korea Air Force will get this indigenously produced advanced fighter at an affordable price, aiming to benefit not only the recipient countries and their respective militaries regarding the capabilities it offer, while also expanding the Korean defense industry in the worldwide market of arms sales and exports.

KF-21 Boramae Specifications, Philippine Air Force, Korea Aerospace Industries, KF-21, Specifications
The basic details.
Image Source.

In understanding further the capabilities of this advanced fighter aircraft that will help advance South Korea’s aerospace industry, it is also worth discussing the specifications that define the KF-21 Boramae’s performance, ranging from the engines that power it to the features that makes it a worthy aircraft for a country like the Philippines to consider some time in the future. Let us point out that the aircraft is still in its final stage of development and not yet in serial production, hence there may have changes later on.

Based on this webpage provided by Korea Aerospace Industries on its website that refers to the KF-21 Boramae, the aircraft’s capabilities come with a maximum thrust weight of 44,000lbs or 19,958 kilograms, a range of 1,550 nautical miles, maximum speed of 1,400mph or almost nearing Mach 2.0, which is around 2x the speed of sound. Its maximum payload of carrying munitions is around 17,000lbs or 7,711 kilograms and its maximum takeoff weight (MTOW) is at around 56,400lbs or at around 25,582 kilograms.

Going to its dimensions, the KF-21 Boramae has a length of 55.4 feet or 16.9 meters, wingspan of 36.7 feet or 11.2 meters, and height from the landing gear to the tip of the tail fin of around 15.6 feet or 4.7 meters. In comparison, the FA-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainers/Light Combat Fighter Aircraft that the Korea Aerospace Industries also produces and currently in operation with the Philippine Air Force is a bit smaller and slightly taller, with the length of 13.4 meters, wingspan of 9.45 meters, and height of 4.81 meters.

The subsystems of the KF-21 Boramae comes with some interesting tidbits, one of which referring to Elbit Systems Ltd of Israel providing the aircraft with the embedded Terrain Following/Terrain Avoidance or TF/TA system, an essential component that aids fighter pilots to fly and maneuver safely in low altitudes, especially in harsh weather conditions or zero visibility environment that enables the aircraft to get stealthier by operating in optimal altitudes not detected by enemy radar positions.

Another thing to point out regarding KF-21 Boramae’s subsystems is the involvement of IAI Elta in developing the indigenous AESA radar prototype as a joint development with Korea Aerospace Industries, as the knowledge learned with the technology may see get integrated with the South Korean-made fighter aircraft and eventually finding its way to other countries that expressed their respective interest in getting the fighter aircraft later on, such as in the case with the Philippine Air Force.

Regarding its armaments, the KF-21 Boramae advanced fighter aircraft of Korea Aerospace Industries may come with ten (10) external hard points intended for carrying weapons, fuel tanks, and sensor pods, depending on mission requirements. This means that in aggression mode, the KF-21 gets fully armed with either air-to-air missiles for its air defense role, or having guided and unguided droppable munitions that provide close air support operations and surgical strike operations.

Completing the specifications is with the propulsion system that influences the performance of the KF-21 Boramae fighter aircraft in combat, whereby it comes with two (2) General Electric F414 engines in twin configuration, the same ones found on F/A-18 Super Hornets, SAAB JAS-39 Gripen E/F variant, and also Hindustan Aeronautics Company’s HAL Tejas Mark 2 single-engine fighter that India also push for the Philippine Air Force’s requirements.

KF-21 Boramae, Philippine Air Force, Korea Aerospace Industries, Test Flight
First public test flight of homegrown KF-21 fighter aircraft as shown in camera.
Image Source.

The Korea Aerospace Industries or KAI is aggressively marketing both of its FA-50s and KF-21 Boramae advanced fighter aircraft for the Philippine Air Force for both its immediate and long-term prospects, looking forward into cementing its position into the Philippine defense market while potentially competing into other solutions such as the candidates that currently takes part in the Multirole Fighter Jet Acquisition Program between SAAB JAS-39 Gripen C/D and Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 Viper.

This comes to the period that the Philippine Air Force actively monitors the development of the KF-21 Boramae currently in development by KAI at the time this article has published, with its promising capabilities and cost-effective solutions being its primary selling points that the leadership may ponder and taken into consideration, while putting other factors at play such as the long-term prospects and support for the incoming air assets that the organization aspires to get in its Flight Plan roadmap.

The marketing pitch of Korea Aerospace Industries is not that surprising, as they also market the KF-21 Boramae in other countries such as Poland, and the users of the T/FA-50 light combat/lead-in fighter trainer jets like Iraq, Thailand, and the Philippines. This is aside from the deal forged with Indonesia, whereby it comes with problems lately, especially with delayed payments that create problems with the program, although the countries of Poland and Qatar can cover up as both are interested partners in the project.

As the production lines for the KF-21 Boramae advanced fighter aircraft sets to take place in 2024, it is likely that the first mass-produced units gets introduced into the active service within the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) by year 2026, with the production intended for export may take place once orders for the South Korean military has fulfilled. It is then that the potential orders from the likes of Qatar, Poland, and Indonesia (shall it remain its interest) will get priority until other countries get into the queue.

For Korea Aerospace Industries, it serves as an achievement that the country of South Korea now that it joins a group of countries that produces supersonic fighter jets known as the supersonic fighter club, as the indigenously made advanced fighter aircraft competes with other products produced by established players in the market, notably Russia, France, Germany, Sweden, the United Kingdom, China, and the United States. Also, it also serves as a significant boost for the booming South Korean defense industry.

The Philippine Air Force, in this case, monitors the development of the South Korean-made advanced fighter aircraft, as the FA-50PH of the air service branch actively serves the 5th Fighter Wing and its exceptional performance during the Marawi Siege gives full credibility to the South Korean aerospace industry that Malaysia used it as a measuring stick that ultimately decides into getting their own FA-50 as well. Both of the countries mentioned may get the KF-21 Boramae later on.

In the end, it is at the prerogative of the Philippine Air Force leadership as to the outcome and the decision that may or may not secure this product made by a notable South Korean aerospace manufacturer, as the newly built assets and upgraded ones from the current Multirole Fighter Jet arrangement may have many flight hours remaining from its serviceable life, and whatever comes after that depends on the availability of funds and the national government’s desire of providing the defense establishment the support it deserves to get.

(c) 2023 PDA.

No comments:

Post a Comment




Total Pageviews To-Date

Webpage Visitors

Free counters!