Translucent Mach 1, KF-21 Boramae Becomes South Korea's 'First' Supersonic Aircraft

Translucent Mach 1, KF-21 Boramae Becomes South Korea's 'First' Supersonic Aircraft

On January 5, when the third prototype of the KF-21 successfully flew for the first time, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) said that in the near future it will conduct a flight test of the KF-21 at supersonic speed. Testing is also scheduled for this January, weather permitting. And it seems that on Tuesday, January 17 2023, the first supersonic flight test was carried out by the South Korean-Indonesian twin engine fighter.

The Korea Times, which released information from the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), said the KF-21 Boramae prototype had flown past Mach 1 over Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, on Tuesday. DAPA says supersonic capability is a key part of the KF-21 project, because it means key functions work smoothly.

According to DAPA, the KF-21 prototype managed to exceed Mach 1 at 40,000 feet (12,192 meters) at 15:15. Earlier the plane took off from the Air Force's 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, at 2:58 p.m. Then the plane landed at 15:54. after flying over the waters south of the Korean Peninsula.

This photo shows the KF-21 Boramae prototype surpassing Mach 1 during flight (DAPA)
Since its first test flight in July 2022, the three prototypes of the aircraft produced by KAI have flown more than 80 times at speeds less than Mach 1. KAI produced six prototypes and the third managed to make its first flight earlier. this month.

DAPA says supersonic flight has two important implications for aircraft research and development. First, the flight confirmed that the KF-21 has structural stability at supersonic speeds. Second, when an aircraft exceeds Mach 1, a shock wave occurs in the aircraft and the surrounding airflow which is destabilizing and can have a significant impact on the structural integrity of the jet.

"The normal flight of the KF-21 can overcome shock waves and demonstrates that its structural stability can be maintained at supersonic speeds," the DAPA said.

Another achievement is the KF-21 being the first domestically made aircraft to reach supersonic speeds. "In the past, the KAI T-50 Golden Eagle exceeded Mach 1 in 2003, but the Golden Eagle was co-developed with Lockheed Martin and uses several US company technologies, which is different from the KF-21's supersonic flight," DAPA added.

Korea now has a supersonic aircraft developed with domestic technology.” With the KF-21 supersonic breakthrough, Korea has an aircraft developed with domestic technology that can fly faster than the speed of sound.

Defense Minister Lee Jong-sup hailed the development as a historic achievement.
"Through the success of supersonic flight, our military has further strengthened the foundation for building a strong combat force based on science and technology," Lee said as quoted by DAPA.

Lee Jong-sup added, “We also took one step further to become the world's fourth largest defense exporter.”

The KF-21 project, formerly known as KF-X, aimed at creating a fighter with superior capabilities to the KF-16 fighter, was initiated in March 2001 by the late President Kim Dae-jung. The ROK Air Force plans to secure 120 advanced multi-role fighter jets by 2032 to replace its aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighter jets.

Korea and Indonesia signed an agreement in 2010 to cooperate on the project, under which Jakarta would fund 20 percent of the total development cost of 8.8 trillion won (US$7.1 billion), in exchange for a number of aircraft to be produced in Indonesia.

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