KF-21 prototypes successfully conduct 1st armament flight tests
SEOUL, March 28 (Yonhap) -- South Korea successfully carried out the first armament tests on two prototypes of its homegrown KF-21 fighter Tuesday, the state arms procurement agency said, in a step to vet its combat capabilities.
The prototypes underwent separate tests over the waters off the country's southern coast after they took off from the Air Force's 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, 300 kilometers south of Seoul, according to the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).
The second and third KF-21 prototypes were mobilized for the tests. Currently, four prototypes have been engaging in flight tests under a plan to utilize a total of six for the overall testing scheme set to run through 2026.
The test on the second prototype was designed to check whether an air-to-air mid-range Meteor test missile can be separated from the jet without any problem. The test on the other involved the firing of some 100 rounds from a machine gun mounted on the third prototype.
DAPA said the tests examined possible changes to the aircraft's structure, engine, and aerodynamic features during the weapons' operation so as to ensure their operational stability and safety.
With the latest tests, DAPA said the KF-21 has taken "another step" to become a "complete fighter jet" to protect the country's airspace.
Launched in 2015, the 8.8 trillion-won (US$6.8 billion) KF-21 project is aimed at developing a supersonic fighter to replace South Korea's aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.
South Korea has so far carried out more than 150 test flights with the four KF-21 prototypes since the aircraft's maiden flight in July last year. The agency plans to start test flights for two more prototypes in the first half of the year under a plan to conduct some 2,000 flights in total by February 2026.
DAPA plans to conduct tests in all flight areas, such as in low and high altitudes as well as at low speeds, and more weapons tests, involving short-range air-to-air missiles.
In the mid-to-long term, it also plans to operate the aircraft with indigenous weapons.
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