Staff Writer (Updated: 6/10/2016):
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.