A video of South Korea's next-generation fight jet performing ground tests went viral on the internet this week, ahead of the aircraft's first scheduled flight.
YouTuber Korea Defense Blog uploaded the footage of the KF-21 Boramae (Korean for "Hawk") taxing at Sacheon Airport, located in the South Gyeongsang Province. The airport is adjacent to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), the developer and manufacturer of the fighter jet that is an inexpensive, less-stealthy alternative to the Lockheed Martin F-35 and F-22 Raptor.
Six prototypes of the KF-21 are being built to support flight testing through 2026 when series production is expected to begin. A Local Korean news media outlet expects the first flight on July 22.
Even though the new fighter jet appears stealthy, it's considered a 4.5 generation fighter, not quite a 5th gen fighter. It's made to replace the Republic of Korea Air Force's (ROKAF) aging fleet of F-4E Phantom IIs and F-5 Tigers.
The KF-21 will be ROKAF's domestic-made fighter while its fleet of 40 US-made F-35As -- first jet delivered by Lockheed Martin in 2018 -- became operation this spring. South Korea is modernizing its military force as a show of force against North Korea. It conducted joint military drills with the US this week.
ROKAF is expected to deploy 40 KF-21s by 2028 and 120 by 2032, while 50 will be sent to Indonesia.
Modernization of the military comes as South Korea's newly elected President Yoon Suk-yeol warned Wednesday to "promptly and sternly" retaliate against the North amid growing concerns Kim Jong-un is preparing to conduct its first nuclear test in five years.