KAI KF-21 Successfully Conducts First Guided Firing of IRIS-T Missile

KAI KF-21 Successfully Conducts First Guided Firing of IRIS-T Missile

Diehl Defence announced on May 17, 2024, that the KF-21 from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), a 4.5th generation indigenous fighter jet still under development, successfully completed its first guided test firing of the IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile (AIM-2000). This significant milestone was achieved in collaboration with Diehl Defence, marking a key moment in the KF-21 fighter program, South Korea’s most ambitious fighter jet initiative to date.

The successful test of the IRIS-T missile this month follows previous achievements within the program. Following the aircraft’s first flight in early 2023, a safe separation test was conducted in May 2023, which involved firing an unguided missile in flight. The recent test in May 2024 saw the missile designated by the onboard AESA radar, successfully engaging a target drone. This comprehensive test not only demonstrated the initial air-to-air capability of the KF-21 but also showcased the performance of the IRIS-T.

The KAI KF-21 Boramae, a multi-role fighter jet developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, epitomizes South Korea’s ambition and technological prowess in military aviation. The prototype was revealed in 2021, and it successfully completed its maiden flight on July 19, 2022. The KF-21 is on track to be operational by 2026, aligning with the timeline projected in 2019.

This significant undertaking required a substantial investment of approximately 8,800 billion won, roughly equivalent to 7.56 billion US dollars. The cost per unit for the KF-21 is estimated at 50 million US dollars.

Technically, the KF-21 is equipped with two F414-400K dual-flow turbojet engines. It features a wingspan of 11.2 meters, a length of 16.9 meters, and a height of 4.7 meters. The aircraft’s maximum takeoff weight stands at 25,580 kilograms. Capable of reaching speeds up to 2,250 kilometers per hour, the KF-21 has an operational range of 1,000 kilometers. It is designed to be armed with up to four Meteor missiles, with plans to start outfitting the aircraft with these next month.

Since 2017, KAI and Diehl Defence have been working closely to achieve a seamless integration of the IRIS-T, known as Europe’s most advanced short-range air-to-air missile. Their collaborative efforts have led to this notable success. Helmut Rauch, CEO of Diehl Defence, expressed his congratulations to KAI for their exceptional performance in the development of the KF-21 program and his pride in Diehl Defence’s role in this success with the IRIS-T missile.

This live firing from the KF-21 also marks an important milestone for the IRIS-T program, demonstrating its compatibility with both legacy and modern fighter aircraft. Following an agreement in February 2024 between KAI and Diehl Defence, plans are underway to begin integrating the IRIS-T into KAI’s FA-50, preparing both platforms for demanding missions.

The IRIS-T system has already been integrated into several major combat aircraft platforms worldwide, including the Panavia Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, JAS-39 Gripen, F-16, EF-18, and F-5. It is currently in service or on order with various NATO countries, as well as Brazil, Thailand, Saudi Arabia, and South Africa.

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