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South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has greenlit production of the KF-21, a domestically developed 5th-generation fighter jet. This marks a significant step forward for the nation’s aerospace industry.

The production approval covers the period between 2024 and 2028, with a total estimated cost of W7.9 trillion (approximately $5.8 billion). While the official number of aircraft remains undisclosed, South Korean media reports suggest an initial production run of 20 jets.

This figure falls short of the initial expectations of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), which had hoped for a larger first batch. DAPA reportedly seeks additional testing on the KF-21’s key systems, particularly its indigenously developed Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar and air-to-air missile capabilities.

Despite the staggered approach to acquiring the first 40 jets, officials maintain that the overall program timeline remains on track. The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) expects to receive its first KF-21 by the latter half of 2026, with an ultimate goal of operating a fleet of 120 by 2032.

Powered by twin GE Aerospace F414 engines, the KF-21 is slated to replace the ROKAF’s aging fleet of F-4 Phantoms and F-5 Tiger IIs. This new fighter jet represents a major leap forward for South Korean airpower, bolstering its national defense capabilities and technological prowess.