S Korean KF-X Jet’s AESA Radar to Match Performance of F-35 Radar

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A prototype of the Active Electronically Scanning Array (AESA) radar locally developed in South Korea for the country’s upcoming KF-X fighter jet is due to be unveiled later this month.

Wang Jung-hong, chief of South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), revealed in an interview with Korea Herald yesterday.

He also said “the prototype (of the aircraft) is coming out next year, and a year later in 2022 we will see its first test flight.”

The radar development is being undertaken mainly by Hanwha Systems and the government’s Agency for Defence Development (ADD).

Earlier, Hong Yoon-seong, the lead Hanwha Systems developer in charge of the AESA radar being developed for the KF-X project had said that the prototype KF-X AESA radar had around 1,088 Transmitter-Receiver Module (TRM). By 2023, the number is expected to increase by 20% to have around 1,200-1,300 modules. (F-22’s radar has 2,000 and F-35’s radar has 1,200).

The  KF-X AESA radar is expected to perform better than AN/APG-83 being installed on KF-16V, which is similar to the F-16V, the most recent version of the F-16 jet.

According to information posted on the Facebook page of the Republic of Korea Armed Forces quoting fromHong Yoon-seong’s interview to Defense journalist Yu Young-won, the KF-X AESA radar’s Synthetic Aperture Radar (SAR) mode provides high-quality image up to an object smaller than 1 meter.

The KF-X AESA radar can detect and track hundreds of ground targets, and this capability can be applied to hunting down North Korea’s transporter erector launchers (TEL). The radar has air-to-air, air-to-ground, and air-to-sea modes, which can be used simultaneously with maximum detection range of around 200 km.

Hanwha Systems developed the radar’s antenna and power supply, which were then integrated and tested with ELTA Systems (Israel) signal processor. By November 2019, 10 overseas and 6 domestic aerial testing sorties had been carried out. These tests proved that the HW works as intended and that development can continue to the next stage.

For the KF-X project, Hanwha Systems is also developing the Electro-Optical Targeting Pod and the Infrared Searcher and Tracker (IRST) which searches and tracks antiaircraft target and provides the azimuth, high angle, and infrared image information of the enemy airplane or antiaircraft missile.