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South Korea’s Cheaper Answer to F-35 Jet Makes First Test Flight

·1-min read

(Bloomberg) -- South Korea reported the first successful test flight of its homegrown fighter jet, joining a small group of countries to demonstrate such technology as part of a bid to reduce its dependence on the US.

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The KF-21, also known as the Boramae, completed a 30-minute flight Tuesday from an airport in the southern city of Sacheon, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration said. The aircraft, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, will require additional tests before planned mass production in 2026.

South Korea wants to develop the next-generation aircraft as a cheaper alternative to Lockheed Martin Corp.’s F-35 Lightning II, both to supply its own military and to market overseas. Seoul, as one of the US’s closest security allies, is already a buyer of F-35s.

The $6.7 billion KF-21 project has been backed by Indonesia, which has pledged to pay 20% of the costs. The two countries agreed to jointly develop the jet in 2014. They have so far managed to overcome differences, which at one point led Jakarta to threaten to walk away.

South Korea unveiled the design for the KF-21 in April last year, as part of a broader plan to demonstrate its capability to keep pace with neighbors that include China, Japan and North Korea. South Korea has recently been investing in military modernization, successfully testing its first ballistic missile from a submarine and its first rocket to boost its domestic space program.

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