Korea Aerospace Industries says fighter, helicopter prototype in orbit prior to the exposition

South Korea’s Sacheon — Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) deadlines for its flagship KF-21 fighter and light attack helicopter (LAH) project as South Korea prepares to hold a biennial defense exhibition next week He said he was doing well in time.

South Korea unveiled the first prototype of the KF-21 in April, with President Moon Jae-in praising the aircraft as the future backbone of the Air Force and taking a step towards greater military independence of its US allies.

South Korean media later questioned the progress of the program when the prototype was partially dismantled for further testing, but KAI chief engineer Lee Il-woo said the project was on schedule on Friday. He said he had advanced.

“Both KF-21 and LAH projects are on track to reach all major milestones,” Lee told reporters at the company’s factory in the southern city of Sacheon.

Company officials declined to comment on potential overseas buyers of either the LAH or KF-21, but said both aircraft would be the centerpiece of next week’s Seoul International Aerospace Defense Exhibition (ADEX). It is expected.

Developed by KAI in a project partially supported by Indonesia, the next-generation KF-21 is designed to replace the US-made F-35, which South Korea depends on, as a cheaper and less stealth alternative. I am.

South Korea and Indonesia are discussing cost disputes after Indonesia has stopped paying.

KAI plans to conduct a ground test this year, with its first flight scheduled for 2022.

At the Sacheon facility, three KF-21 prototypes with bright yellow-green primers were in various stages of production on the assembly line.

Lee Sang-hui, head of the aircraft production control team, said most of the work was done manually by engineers rather than automated machines, as the process is still in the prototype stage.

He said the assembly line would return to the production of KAI’s older model TA-50 military trainer for several years while the KF-21 prototype was being tested before mass production began.

At the adjacent 57,823-square-foot structural test facility built for the KF-21 program, three more partially assembled prototypes underwent various static tests.

Tests are expected to continue until around 2026, officials say, 40 of the new jets are ready for combat by 2028, and 120 are ready for combat by 2032.

The LAH will be armed with a 20 mm chain gun and 2.75 inch unguided rockets during the final stages of its flight test, and will eventually carry an air-to-ground missile.

“Next year should be the last year of the development phase,” said Kai Helicopter test pilot Kim Jin-su.

Josh Smith