On 3 September Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) announced that it has begun final assembly of Prototype #1 airframe for the KF-x programme.
Final assembly in this case is defined as bringing forward, middle and rear fuselage assemblies together with the main wing and empennage, resulting in a ‘whole aircraft.’ The announcement highlights the rapid nature of the programme to date: system development began in December 2015; preliminary design review followed in 2018; machining of detailed parts commenced in February 2019; and the programme passed its critical design review in September that same year.
The corporation’s investment in the programme has been significant and has included new infrastructure as well as the recruitment of some 800 development engineers. The project sits high on the list of national defence and industrial priorities and embraces a host of national technological ‘firsts’ and improvements in areas such as avionics – particularly the flight and mission computers – as well as in major systems such as radar, the EW suite and sensors.
The KF-X prototype is scheduled for completion by mid-2021, with maiden flight in 2022 and system development completion in 2026. The programme has so far brought together 16 universities, 11 laboratories and over 530 suppliers, with an additional 100 engineers to be hired for the project during 2020.