South Korea has officially named the Korea Aircraft Industries (KAI) KF-X fighter as the KF-21 Boramae (Young Hawk) in a rollout ceremony for the first prototype aircraft on April 9. The event was attended by South Korean president Moon Jae In, and also by Indonesia’s defense minister, Prabowo Subianto, despite the uncertainty of the Southeast Asian country’s status in the fighter program.
A full-scale mock-up of the KF-X was unveiled in 2019, and KAI has released a number of images as the first aircraft went through the assembly process. The prototype, serial no. 001, was unveiled with both Korean and Indonesian flags. During a light show as part of the ceremony, KAI also projected the flags of potential customer countries that the company is courting, including Iraq, Malaysia, Peru, Philippines, Qatar, Senegal, and Thailand.
Prabowo held a meeting with his South Korean counterpart, Suh Wook, on April 8 to further discuss the KF-X program, although Korean media reported following the meeting that no progress had been made. Indonesia initially agreed to pay 20 percent, or about $1.55 billion, of the total program cost, but it has only paid $203.4 million of the $744.4 million due in February, citing financial problems. It has also been reported that Jakarta is keen on getting its hands on the Dassault Rafale or Boeing F-15EX to fulfill its air defense requirements in the near term.
Officially at least, Korea remains hopeful that Indonesia remains a partner. "I believe Minister Prabowo's visit for the KF-X rollout ceremony means Indonesia's strong commitment to a successful defense cooperation between the two countries," Moon told the media.
Eight KF-21 prototypes are to be built, six for airborne tests and two for ground tests. Serial production is due to start by 2026. Moon commented that 40 examples are due to have been produced by 2028, and 120 by 2032.