South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it carried out the first armament tests on two KF-21 fighter prototypes on Tuesday.
In an official release, the DAPA said the second prototype launched the MeteorIn an official release, the DAPA said the second prototype launched a dummy Meteor active radar guided beyond-visual-range air-to-air missile. The test on the other involved the firing of some 100 rounds from a machine gun mounted on the aircraft. beyond-visual-range (BVR) air-to-air missile. The test on the other involved the firing of some 100 rounds from a machine gun mounted on the aircraft.
The Meteor missile is made by MBDA for which its European maker signed a contract last year to integrate the active radar guided BVR missile on to the KF-21.
The second and third KF-21 prototypes were mobilized for the tests. The aircraft 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, 300km south of Seoul.
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.
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 ($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.
Seoul 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 DAPA 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.
“In the future, the KF-21 will continue to verify the stability and performance of its armament through tests on short- and mid-range air-to-air missiles and machine guns in all flight areas (low altitude, high altitude, low speed, supersonic speed, etc). Armed forces are also planned to be systematically integrated and operated in stages according to the development plan,” the DAPA said.
Integrating the Meteor will provide the KF-21 jet with similar capabilities as the Rafale and Gripen, the two European jets that also used the MBDA-made armament.