South Korea’s locally-developed KF-21 fighter jet passed a provisional combat suitability evaluation this week ahead of its initial production phase next year.
The evaluation by the Joint Chiefs of Staff is based on the aircraft’s ground and flight tests that have been going on for the last two years.
The evaluation will help the aircraft’s weapons developers secure budget for mass production — even before prototypes complete combat requirements — accelerating the production process, Yonhap News Agency wrote citing the Defense Acquisition Program Administration.
Induction From 2026
Since its rollout in 2021, the Korean Aerospace Industries aircraft has undergone around 200 flight tests to check its various systems, including flight speed, combat operational range, and takeoff and landing distances.
The 4.5 generation supersonic aircraft is expected to replace the aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.
A total of six prototypes will complete a combined 2,200 flight tests through 2026 before induction, which is expected to start in the latter half of 2026.
In a related development, the fifth prototype underwent its maiden flight test earlier this week. The flight test of the sixth prototype is slated for next month.
The first, second, third, and fifth prototypes are single-seaters while the fourth and sixth are double-seaters.