South Korea joined an exclusive club this week when its KF-21 Boramae fighter jet took to the sky for the first time. It is now one of the few countries to have developed and successfully flown a homegrown advanced supersonic fighter.
The country’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said the prototype jet went on a half-hour, round-trip flight Tuesday from a base in Sacheon, located in the southern part of the Republic of Korea.
CNN reported that the pilot, Maj. Ahn Jun-hyun, admitted to being a bit nervous about the flight beforehand but later said “everything went smoothly so I flew the whole flight route as planned.”
The KF-21 Boramae (Korean for “hawk”) flew at about 250 mph during the test, according to DAPA.
Plans to develop a homegrown fighter jet were first announced in 2001 by former President Kim Dae-jung, who told graduating cadets at the country’s Air Force Academy, “We’ll let you ride fighter jets developed by Korea,” according to South Korea’s JoongAng Daily newspaper.
Tuesday’s test flight came more than 15 months after a prototype of the KF-21 was unveiled in a ceremony attended by South Korean President Moon Jae-in and officials from Indonesia, which is paying about 20% of the funding.
The project is believed to be the most expensive in Korean history, with almost $8 million spent on development alone, according to JoongAng Daily.