S. Korea succeeds in aerial refueling test of first homegrown supersonic fighter jet

By Park Sae-jin Posted : March 19, 2024, 17:35 Updated : March 19, 2024, 17:35
Courtesy of DAPA
[Courtesy of DAPA]

SEOUL -- South Korea has succeeded in the aerial refueling test of its first homegrown fighter jet "KF-21." The successful demonstration of mid-air refueling procedure has proved that the "Boramae" jet's original radius of action of 2,900 kilometers (1,800 miles) can be increased by about 50 percent.

The KF-21 project started in 2010 in a bid to replace the country's aging fleet of U.S.-made F-4 and F-5 fighters. According to specifications outlined by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the fighter jet's maximum speed is Mach 1.81 with a maximum carrying load of 17,000 pounds (7.7 tons). South Korea aims to produce 120 new fighter jets through the KF-21 project by 2032.

The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), under the South Korean Ministry of Defense, said that a KF-21 prototype successfully conducted an air-to-air refueling (AAR) test by coupling with Air Force KC-330 "Cygnus" AAR plane above the coastline near the southern port city of Sacheon.

According to DAPA, factors such as the aerodynamics of the plane during an AAR process and the connectivity of the Boramae's refueling rod were tested and monitored. "If a KF-21 fighter jet is refueled in the air, the radius of operation of the plane is increased by at least 50 percent," a DAPA official said, adding the increased action radius boosts KF-21's long-range operation capabilities and helps the fighter jet carry more weapons.

"We plan to test the AAR capability of the Boramae jet through about 60 mid-air refueling tests in various environments such as different altitudes and speeds by March 2025," DAPA's KF-X division head Roh Ji-man said.
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