The first two-seat prototype of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 fighter has operated its maiden flight from Sacheon, South Korea.

The aircraft – the fourth of six prototypes – conducted a 34-minute sortie from 11:19-11:53 local time on 20 February, according to South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA).

The aircraft was accompanied by at least one KAI FA-50 chase aircraft. A video provided by DAPA suggests that it did not retract its landing gear during the sortie, and the aircraft’s second seat was unoccupied. 

Ultimately, the two-seat variant of the KF-21 is intended for training purposes, says DAPA. The addition of a second seat changes the space available for an internal fuel tank, but otherwise the two-seat aircraft is identical to the baseline single-seat version.

Of the six prototypes that will conduct the KF-21’s flight test campaign, aircraft 4 and 6 will have two seats.

DAPA adds that the fifth and sixth prototypes will join the flight test campaign in 2023 and help expand the performance envelope through continuous flight tests.

The milestone comes just over a month after the third prototype, a single-seater, conducted its maiden flight.

Source: Defense Acquistion Program Administration

The new year has been a successful one for the KF-21. In addition to the maiden sortie of the third KF-21 prototype on 3 January, the first prototype broke the sound barrier on 17 January – a first for the programme.

February also saw officials from junior partner Jakarta reiterate its commitment in the programme.

The KF-21 is expected to enter South Korean service in 2026. Seoul is likely to acquire 150 examples, and Indonesia 50.

The fighter is powered by a pair of GE Aerospace F414 engines.