South Korea's homegrown KF-21 fighter successfully carried out its first flight test Tuesday, around 6 1/2 years after its development project kicked off.
At the Air Force's 3rd Flying Training Wing in Sacheon, about 300 kilometers south of Seoul, the warplane took off, signaling South Korea is on course to join an elite club of seven countries that have locally developed supersonic fighter jets.
The maiden flight under the 8.8 trillion-won (US$6.67 billion) project came as the nation has been pushing to replace its aging fleet of F-4 and F-5 fighters with the high-end jet and bolster its airpower to counter North Korea's evolving nuclear and missile threats.
So far, five KF-21 prototypes have been rolled out for testing purposes with the sixth due out sometime this month. The prototypes are scheduled to conduct a combined 2,000 sorties or more to finish the overall fighter development by 2026.
From 2026-2028, KAI plans to manufacture the initial units of the KF-21 Block I.