Taiwan rushes its future fighter program and relies on KF-21 Boramae design

KF-21 rollout

China’s ongoing show of force has forced Taiwan to accelerate plans for a next-generation indigenous fighter, the first flight of which is now estimated for 2025.

The Taiwanese Ministry of Defense indicated that the ADF (Advanced Defense Fighter) project will be officially launched in 2023, bringing forward the evaluation and development phase by at least one year. The secret: outsourcing much of the necessary technology to allied countries and relying on proven systems.

Thus, the engine chosen for “Project Angel” is the well-known General Electric F414-GE-400, which already equips the Boeing F/A 18 E/F Super Hornet and the South Korean KAI KF-X, from which it also takes other systems and, above all, design solutions.

GE F414-400

According to the upmedia site, the Western collaboration does not end at the engine: the avionics will be provided by L3 Harris, the ejection seats by Martin-Baker and the decision on the supplier of its Full-Glass-Cockpit and its AESA radar is expected to be defined during this month.

Domestic industry; design, not so much

The Taiwanese aircraft sacrifices indigenous development for availability: the initial project, launched in 2019, sought to incorporate up to twenty-four systems designed, built, and implemented by local industry. But Chinese pressure imposed otherwise.

Thus, in-house design was set aside to borrow known design solutions: the aircraft will have an approximate 90% similarity to the KF-21 Boramae, which in turn borrows ideas from the Lockheed Martin F-35.

KF-21 ADEX 2021

The first A1 flight test prototype and T1 static test model are expected in May 2024, before current President Tsai Ing-Wen’s term ends. Taiwan expects the first flight of the fighter, if all goes well, to occur in 2025.

The pre-series aircraft initially intended as 9 for 2029, will be 6 and will join the test program in 2026, with the idea that the aircraft will get its IOC before the end of the decade.

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