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  • KAI KF-X 5th Generation Multirole Fighter

    The South Korean KAI KF-X 5th Generation Fighter program has now reached full-scale development approval as of January 2016.

     Updated: 6/10/2016; Authored By Staff Writer; Content ¬©www.MilitaryFactory.com

    The "5th Generation Fighter" - along with the "Unmanned Aerial Vehicle" - is the current buzzword in the aviation defense industry. The 5th Generation fighter is a technological marvel, intended to surpass the capabilities of both modern 4th and 4.5th Generation mounts in wide circulation today through powerful tracking and engagement facilities, advanced avionics, high-end engine installations, agile performance, composite structures and inherent stealth features to help dominate the battlefield. To date, there is only one operational 5th Generation Fighter design in the skies - the American Lockheed F-22 Raptor air superiority fighter - though several major developments have since emerged from Russia and China. The United States is undoubtedly leading the way with their F-22 and upcoming Lockheed F-35 Lightning II in weapons testing (2012) while the Chinese Chengdu J-20 has been strategically unveiled through propaganda and the Russian Sukhoi PAK FA has seen her first flight. India is in joint development with the Russians for a local-produced version of the PAK FA and a Turkish endeavor has been announced. A Japanese 5th Generation fighter design (the Mitsubishi ATD-X) is advancing. Conversely, a South Korean imitative - noted as the "KF-X" program - is facing tough issues in both the political and the economic realms.

    The Korean War (1950-1953) cost the lives of tens of thousands of military and civilian personnel, becoming one of the major battlegrounds of the Cold War between the Soviet Union and the United States (ahead of the Vietnam War). Prior to the war, and after World War 2 and the fall of the Japanese Empire, the Korean Peninsula was divided between a communist northern sphere and a democratic southern sphere. With Stalin's blessing, the North moved in to invade the South and the UN responded in force over the three-year conflict that saw the advent of the jet fighter and jet-versus-jet duels that eventually incorporated Soviet-versus-American pilots. The war ended with a loose armistice and tensions have been high and low ever since.

    With that said, the South Korean government has worked well over the decades to field a capable and modern fighting force to counter the size and strength of the North. Outnumbered in most respects, the South manages through the latest technology and modern tactics, hoping to employ its military might (aided largely by the United States) to content with any endeavor the North may pursue. There is much intrigue in the region for Japan, the Philippines, Indonesia, China, Taiwan, Thailand and Malaysia all have stakes in a stable Asia-Pacific region though all are now faced with a very public arms race.

    The South Korean KF-X fighter program seeks to design, develop and produce a wholly indigenous 5th Generation Fighter of the multirole type to create an imbalance of the playing field against the North. The North fields a collection of Soviet/Russian aircraft with a portion of its fleet dating back to the Cold War years. An indigenous initiative would seemingly provide the South Koreans with complete autonomy in the future aerial defense of their country and allow the option to export the system to interested allied parties for self-economical gain. However, indigenous 5th Generation Fighter programs are costly beasts and consume much research and development effort as they do time to implement in full (as proven by the bloated Lockheed F-35 program which initially promised several financial and logistical benefits). Despite the inherent benefits of such a program, there are obvious drawbacks to threaten the future of the KF-X. To date, several configurations have been studied with no clear concrete direction established as the future of the program remains in doubt. The South Korean Air Force may very well be forced to settle on existing fighter mounts - most likely 4.5th Generation Types - for the near future. The front-running designs of the KF-X program - like other current 5th Generation Fighter designs appearing globally - imitate the design lines established by the Lockheed F-22 Raptor utilizing low-observable features and inherent stealth benefits.

    NOTE: Presented performance values on this page are estimates only.

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    KAI KF-X Technical Specifications

    Service Year: 2026
    Type: 5th Generation Multirole Fighter
    National Origin: South Korea
    Manufacturer(s): KAI (Korean Aerospace Industries) - South Korea
    Production Total: 0

    Structural (Crew Space, Dimensions and Weights)

    Operating Crew: 1
    Length: 52.49 feet (16 meters)
    Width: 36.09 feet (11.00 meters)
    Height: 17.22 feet (5.25 meters)

    Weight (Empty): 22,046 lb (10,000 kg)
    Weight (MTOW): 50,706 lb (23,000 kg)

    Installed Power and Standard Day Performance

    Engine(s): 2 x EuroJet EJ200 OR General Electric F144 turbofan engines with afterburner capability developing 20,000lb of thrust each (estimated).

    Maximum Speed: 1,553 mph (2,500 kph; 1,350 knots)
    Maximum Range: 2,361 miles (3,800 km)
    Service Ceiling: 64,961 feet (19,800 meters; 12.30 miles)
    Rate-of-Climb: 60,000 feet-per-minute (18,288 m/min)

    Armament / Mission Payload

    1 x 20mm internal cannon

    External weapons hardpoints and an internal weapons bay.

    Global Operators / Customers

    South Korea (assumed)

    Model Variants (Including Prototypes)

    KF-X - Program Designation

    KF-X-100 - Single-engine proposal; conventional wing configuration.

    KF-X-200 - Twin-engine proposal; delta-winged configuration with forward canards.