South Korea will roll-out its KF-X fighter jet prototype around end-April, weeks ahead of schedule, Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said in comments quoted in Korean media.

The first prototype is currently in the final stage of assembly. South Korea has been working on the KF-X project since 2015 to develop a 4.5 generation fighter aircraft to replace the Air Force’s fleet of F-4 and F-5 jets.

The assembly of the first prototype began in September 2020 by Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI) which is the project lead under guidance of the DAPA.

Completion of ground and flight tests is expected around 2026. Forty units are planned to be delivered to the Air Force by 2028 and another 80 units by 2032, the report said.

While bearing outward similarities to the fifth-generation F-35A, the aircraft is more aligned to the F-16 in terms of performance and features. However, its future iterations will have features  of the American stealth fighter.

The aircraft is expected to fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.81, a range of 2,900 kilometers and maximum payload of 7,700 kilograms. The fighter will contain 10 pods for missiles and fuel tanks. It will be able to carry several types of air-to-air missiles, such as Germany’s IRIS-T and MBDA’s active radar guided Meteor missiles.