Eight years ago the Eurofighter managers had a bold dream.

They wanted to sell Europe's fighter jet to the South Koreans in a kind of lure offer and even manufacture the majority of the aircraft locally in Asia.

In addition, the Eurofighter consortium, led by Airbus, wanted to contribute two billion dollars to the development of South Korea's first own fighter jet, the KF-X.

But things turned out differently.

The first prototype of the multi-purpose fighter with almost eight billion dollars in development costs has just been presented at a premiere event.

The KF-X model, which is now officially called the KF-21 Boramae, is scheduled to take off for the first time in 2022.

The hoped-for cooperation is now developing into competition for the Europeans.

Instead, Indonesia contributed 20 percent to the development of the fighter.

While the Eurofighter, carried by Germany, Great Britain, Italy and Spain, also imagined great sales opportunities in Asia, the model is confronted with another modern competitor.


The South Koreans celebrate the KF-X model as their first own fighter jet and as the country's largest armaments project to date.

In fact, a lot of US technology is built in and Washington helped the government in Seoul with the project.

For example, General Electric supplies the two engines.

The jet, manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), is somewhat similar to the US super fighter jet F-22 with its rear twin tailplane.

The stealth properties are said to be better than those of the Eurofighter, but worse than the Lockheed Martin F-35.

Eurofighter is being retrofitted

The model, which has been developed since 2015, has no weapon slots in the fuselage that could reduce the stealth property.

With a wingspan of a good eleven meters and a length of over 17 meters, the single-seater is slightly larger than a Eurofighter or the F-35.

The top speed is estimated at 1.81 times the speed of sound.


According to the rules of the game of the military experts, the KF-X model is considered a fifth generation fighter jet with an electronic radar from the Korean Hanwha group, while the Eurofighter (first flight in 1994) was initially considered a fourth generation development.

However, the German Eurofighters are currently being retrofitted with modern Hensoldt radars.

The new German-French-Spanish super fighter jet in the mega-project FCAS (Future Combat System), which should be operational from 2040, is classified as a sixth generation fighter.

The history of the KF-X development is shaped by two goals: On the one hand, the government in Seoul needed new fighter jets to replace, among other things, outdated Phantom F-4s and old F-5 Tigers.

In addition, they want to build up armaments know-how themselves in order to become more independent.


The Americans, who have been closely associated with South Korea in terms of security policy for decades, kicked the Europeans out of the running when it came to tendering for new fighter jets.

Initially, Boeing jets were considered.

But American F-35s were then ordered from Lockheed and the USA helped with the KF-X development at the same time.

South Korea now sees its own model as a cheaper alternative to the F-35 model.

The talk is of a unit price of $ 65 million and lower maintenance costs.

In addition to Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand are also potential customers of the fighter.

Backbone of the South Korean Air Force

At the moment, South Korea is not the only state that wants to break away from the US or Europe dependency on deliveries by developing its own fighter jets.

Turkey and India are also promoting their own projects.

As South Korean President Moon Jae-in said at the presentation of the KF-X, the fighter jet should become the backbone of the future air force.

Moon announced that at least 40 of the new jets should be operational by 2028, and 140 by 2032. "A new era of independent defense has begun," said the president.

No assembly line work: KAI employees assemble the first KF-21

Source: picture alliance / YONHAPNEWS AG

There remains a little consolation for Europeans.

You should at least be involved in the armament.

The KF-X model is to receive guided missiles against targets in the air from Germany.

Experts speak of the Iris-T air-to-air missile from the Diehl Group, for rather shorter ranges.

In addition, the European guided missile company MBDA is to supply modern, long-range air-to-air missiles of the Meteor type.

Both the Iris-T and Meteor missiles are also used by the Eurofighter.