The Korea Aerospace Industries KF-21 fighter has conducted its first air-to-air refuelling contacts with a Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) tanker.

A video posted by the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) shows the fifth prototype of the developmental aircraft contacting the boom of a ROKAF Airbus Defence & Space A330 Multi-Role Tanker Transport (MRTT).

KF-21 and A330 air to air refuelling

Source: Defense Acquistion Program Administration

The KF-21 and A330 MRTT conducted the air-to-air refuelling effort off of South Korea’s southern coast

DAPA did not state whether fuel was transferred during the contact, but local media reports, quoting the agency, suggest that fuel was passed between the two aircraft.

The agency adds that the air-to-air refuelling is essential for extending the range of the fighter, due for delivery to the ROKAF in the second half of 2026.

DAPA says the refuelling tests will look at factors such as the fighter’s ability to connect and disconnect safely, as well as the impact of turbulence. Future evaluations will look at refuelling operations at different altitudes and speeds.

The KF-21 test campaign involves six aircraft – four single-seaters and two twin-seaters – performing up to 2,000 test flights following the maiden sortie of the first example in July 2022.

Source: Defense Aqquisition Program Administration

The KF-21 starts air-to-air refuelling tests

The KF-21 is powered by two GE Aerospace F414 engines and will replace McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms and Northrop F-5s still in service with the ROKAF.

For the international market, the KF-21 is pitched as an “affordable mid-class fighter”, with 10 hardpoints for weapons.