Air Defense of the Republic of Korea... For a country with an area of 100210 sq. km, the Republic of Korea has a very powerful and modern air force. The air force of the Republic of Kazakhstan is inferior in number to the air force of the DPRK, but is more combat-ready, equipped with modern technology. South Korean pilots have a higher annual flight time. A closer look at the South Korean combat aviation it can be noted that it has a very high technical readiness factor, and fighter squadrons in a threatened period can be quickly dispersed to reserve airfields. After the appearance of operational-tactical missiles in the DPRK in the 1980s, well-protected concrete shelters were built at all major airbases of the ROK and US Air Force located in South Korea.
According to reference data, as of 2019, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) had about 700 aircraft, of which about 400 were combat aircraft. There are 10 fighter air wings in total. The core of the fighter fleet is made up of American-made aircraft or those produced under an American license, but the South Korean government is making significant efforts to organize the production of its aircraft and reduce its dependence on the United States in military-economic terms.
South Korean aviation is permanently based at seven air bases and four dual-use airfields. In addition, there are 14 reserve runways with concrete and unpaved surfaces. Also, straight sections of motorways can be used as a runway.
The basing scheme of fighters of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan
The presented diagram shows that the main part of the basing airfields is located in the central part of the country, and all of them are covered by Patriot PAC-2 / PAC-3, MIM-23В I-Hawk and Cheolmae-2 medium and long-range anti-aircraft missile systems.
In the past, South Korean fighters FK-16C and F-15K have repeatedly climbed towards Russian and Chinese bombers approaching the border of the territorial waters of the Republic of Korea, and also accompanied the American B-1B, B-52H and P-8A during training flights.
F-15K fighters of the South Korean Air Force
The F-15K heavy fighters are of the greatest value as an air defense interceptor. The F-15K Slam Eagle is an export version of the American F-15E Strike Eagle specially adapted for Korea.
South Korean fighter F-15K Slam Eagle
In 2002, the ROKAF command declared this fighter the winner of the FX competition, which also featured Dassault Rafale, Eurofighter Typhoon and Su-35 fighters. New heavy fighters in the South Korean Air Force were supposed to replace the outdated F-5A / B Freedom Fighter, F-5E / F Tiger II, F-4D / E Phantom II and partly the F-16 Fighting Falcon of the first batch.
A number of improvements were introduced into the design of the F-15K, which made it possible to make this aircraft more technologically advanced and provide increased survivability and better maintainability. An important factor that contributed to the victory of the Boeing product was the fact that the Americans agreed that Korean firms were involved in the manufacture of some aircraft parts and that Korean-made electronics were used. For example, Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI) produces fuselage and wing elements, Hanwha Group is responsible for control equipment, Samsung Thales supplies radars, communications and jamming equipment, LIG Nex1 (LG Innotek) multifunctional displays and fire control systems, Samsung Techwin assembles engines. In total, the F-15K fighter contains up to 40% of parts and components of electronic equipment manufactured in the Republic of Korea.
Compared to the original F-15E, the Korean F-15K has an improved avionics. So, to coordinate interaction with other fighters, AWACS aircraft, air defense systems and ground control points, Link-16 onboard equipment is used, which in real time allows you to transmit and receive information about air targets. Armament, radar and generator of active and jamming and shooting of heat traps are controlled by the HOTAS system. The aircraft is equipped with the latest generation of navigation aids, as well as FLIR night vision equipment and an IRST infrared search and sighting system. The aircraft's armament control system includes an APG-63 (V) 1 airborne radar, an integrated JHMCS helmet-mounted target designation system and thermal imaging sighting sensors. The machine is equipped with a MIL STD 1760 data bus.
The AN / APG-63 (V) 1 radar manufactured by Raytheon is used to detect air, ground and sea targets. The radar has a high detection efficiency against the background of the underlying surface and can work in the mapping mode. Compared to the AN / APG-63 station installed on F-15A / B fighters, this modification has improved characteristics and is much more reliable. It provides simultaneous tracking of 14 air targets and simultaneous firing of AIM-120C / D missiles at six targets. The detection range of small targets is about 100 km, the maximum detection range of air targets is 180 km.
The F-15K Slam Eagle fighter is capable of carrying a wide range of aircraft weapons with a total weight of 13 kg. The built-in 000-mm M20A61 cannon (1 rounds of ammunition), AIM-512L / X Sidewinder UR, AIM-9M Sparrow and AIM-7C AMRAAM can be used to engage air targets. The maximum launch range of a melee missile launcher with infrared guidance is 120 km, the AIM-8M Sparrow can hit air targets at a distance of up to 7 km (to the front hemisphere), and the AIM-70C AMRAAM - 120 km (to the front hemisphere). In real air combat conditions, the effective range of radar-guided air-to-air missiles does not exceed 120-45 km.
The two-seater fighter has a maximum take-off weight of 36740 kg. Two bypass turbojet engines Pratt Whitney F110-GE-129 with afterburner thrust of 13150 kgf can accelerate the aircraft to a speed of 2655 km / h. The fighters supplied under the second contract are equipped with Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229ERR engines with increased reliability with a maximum thrust at afterburner of 13200 kgf. Cruising flight speed - 917 km / h. Combat radius with a minimum combat load - 1800 km.
According to information released by World Air Forces 2020, ROKAF currently has 59 F-15K Slam Eagle fighters. One plane crashed into the Sea of Japan in June 2006, killing two pilots. South Korean F-15K Slam Eagle are in good technical condition and regularly participate in joint exercises with the US Air Force. The current F-15K fleet is expected to last until at least 2040.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-15K fighters at Daegu airfield
The main airbase of the Korean Needles is the Daegu dual-use airport. The E-737 DRLO aircraft on duty is also regularly based here.
When studying satellite images of the Daegu airfield and other South Korean air bases, attention is drawn to the fact that combat fighters of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan are out of flight almost all the time in ground reinforced concrete and underground fortified shelters. The planes have a great chance of surviving in the event of a surprise attack and are protected from adverse meteorological factors.
F-16 fighters of the South Korean Air Force
At the moment, the main ROKAF fighters are F-16C / D Fighting Falcon. South Korea was one of the first countries to receive 40 fighters of the F-16C / D Block 32 modification. The ROKAF began mastering these aircraft in 1986. At that time, the F-86D Saber fighters were operated in the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan, and the F-5A / B Freedom Fighter and F-5E / F Tiger II constituted the basis of the combat aircraft fleet. The mastery of the Fighting Falcons by South Korean pilots was a significant step forward in terms of increasing combat potential.
South Korean F-16D Block 32 19th Fighter Wing
The F-16C can fly at a maximum speed of 2125 km / h. The combat radius without conformal tanks in the configuration for air combat is up to 1700 km. The fighter is armed with one 20-mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon with 500 rounds; external suspensions can carry weapons, equipment and PTB with a total weight of up to 9276 kg. In combat configuration, the aircraft takes up to 5420 kg of weapons, including the AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM air-to-air missiles.
In the early 1990s, the South Korean government announced its intention to purchase a large batch of combat aircraft. Initially, the F / A-18 Hornet was declared the winner of the tender. However, due to allegations of corruption, the results of the competition were revised, and the ROKAF command opted for the F-16C / D Block 52D. According to the original contract, 12 fighters came assembled from the Lockheed Martin plant in Fort Worth, 36 were assembled by KAI from ready-made kits, 72 aircraft were built under license in Korea. The final implementation of this contract was completed in 1999. In 2000, an additional batch of 20 fighters was ordered, which were supposed to compensate for the natural loss of the F-16C / D Block 32 developing their resource. At the same time, the early modification aircraft underwent overhaul and modernization, for which about $ 2009 million was spent until 150 The full cost of the contract for the supply of the F-16C / D Block 52D was not disclosed, but as of 1999 the price of one fighter was $ 19 million.
The first 12 fighters, assembled at the KAI plant in Sacheon, were handed over to the customer in 1994. In ROKAF, these aircraft were designated KF-16. Korean-assembled fighters were equipped with Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 engines with afterburner thrust of 12900 kgf, APG-68 (V) 7 radar with a detection range of air targets with EPR 1m² up to 70 km, guidance and navigation system LANTIRN. Like the F-15K heavy fighters assembled in Korea, the single-engine KF-16 received a number of advanced Korean-made electronic systems. Foreign experts note the very perfect ALQ-200K jamming equipment from LIG Nex1, as well as multifunctional liquid crystal displays and sighting equipment.
At the end of 2011, the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan announced a competition for the modernization of the KF-16. Among other requirements, a cardinal improvement of the onboard radar was separately stipulated. The Raytheon Corporation pledged to supply the new radar. This station will be in many respects similar to that intended for the F-16V fighter. $ 134 billion has been allocated for the upgrade of avionics and the integration of weapons for 16 KF-1 aircraft. ROKAF has requested a separate upgrade of 35 F-16 Block 32, which will allow the use of new types of aircraft weapons and secure communications equipment. Part of the funds is planned to be spent on a diagnostic system and strengthening the airframe.
According to the reference data, the fleet of F-16C / D Block 32 and KF-16C / D in the South Korean Air Force is 118 single and 51 two-seat fighters. However, taking into account the fact that some of the aircraft were lost in flight accidents, written off due to wear and tear, are in the process of repair and modernization, there are no more than 140 fighters of the F-16 family in flight condition in ROKAF.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-16 fighters at Cheongju airbase
Single-engine fighters of American and South Korean production are actively used and are regularly deployed to reserve air bases throughout the country, and also participate in joint exercises with the US Air Force.
Currently, most of the early F-16C / D Block 32 are assembled in the 19th Fighter Wing at Cheongju AFB. These aircraft are primarily intended for use as fighter-bombers. The task of fighting the air enemy is assigned to the newer KF-16C / D of local assembly.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-16 fighters at the entrance to an underground shelter at Cheongju airbase, at the beginning of the runway there are F-4E fighters
At Sesan and Cheongju airbases for F-16 fighters there are highly protected shelters buried in the ground. Numerous taxiways, combined with two runways, ensure that aircraft are quickly taken out of cover and the entire wing is lifted into the air.
The ROKAF command expects that the upgraded KF-16C / D will remain in service for at least another 15 years. In the future, they are expected to be replaced by the American F-35A and the 5th generation KF-X fighters being created in South Korea.
F-5 fighters of the South Korean Air Force
Until the mid-1990s, the main fighters of the RoK Air Force were the F-5A Freedom Fighter and the F-5E Tiger II. Although the F-5s did not shine with outstanding flight performance and advanced avionics, they were relatively inexpensive to manufacture and maintain. These light fighters could be quickly mastered by intermediate pilots, and thanks to their simple and thoughtful design, they were popular with ground technicians.
The last F-5A / B fighters in service since 1965 were decommissioned in 2005, and the single-seat F-5E and two-seat F-5F are still quite numerous in ROKAF. This was facilitated by the fact that after the acquisition of the first batch of F-5E / F in 1974, the South Korean government decided to establish licensed production of these aircraft. The first Tiger-2 fighters, which received the Korean designation KF-5E / F Jegongho, entered combat squadrons in 1982. Until 1987, the South Korean Air Force accepted 48 KF-5E and 20 KF-5F built at the KAI facility in Sachon. Prior to that, Seoul received 126 F-5Es and 20 F-5Fs on favorable terms.
South Korean fighter KF-5E Jegongho
The flight data of the KF-5E did not differ much from the F-5E. A fighter with a maximum take-off weight of 11 kg could be accelerated by two General Electric J570-GE-85В turbojet engines with a total thrust on afterburner of 21 kgf up to 4534 km / h. Cruising flight speed - 1700 km / h. Combat radius with two AIM-850 Sidewinder missiles - up to 9 km. The KF-1070E is equipped with an AN / APQ-5 radar with an air target detection range of 159 km. To combat aerial targets, two 70-mm Ford M20A39 cannons with 2 rounds of ammunition and AIM-560 Sidewinder melee missiles could be used.
South Korean combat training fighter KF-5F Jegongho
In the mid-1990s, in order to improve the combat characteristics, a modernization program was proposed, within the framework of which it was planned to install a new radar. This innovation, in addition to increasing the detection range, was supposed to allow the use of the AIM-7M Sparrow medium-range missile launcher with a semi-active radar guidance system. However, in connection with the beginning of the licensed production of the F-16C / D during the overhaul of the F-5E / F and KF-5E / F, it was decided to do with the replacement of communication and navigation equipment.
Currently, F-5E / F fighters are considered obsolete. However, ROKAF currently has about 120 F-5E / F Tiger II and KF-5E / F Jegongho in its three fighter wings and training units. For a long period of time, these aircraft were the "workhorses" of the South Korean Air Force and, despite their long service life, were maintained in good technical condition. Taking into account the fact that the DPRK Air Force in its bulk is equipped with aircraft of the 1960-1970s, F-5 fighters could quite successfully withstand them in air combat and intercept at low altitudes.
Satellite image of Google Earth: KF-5E fighters at Gangneung airbase
Observers note that in 2019, the two-seater KF-5F Jegongho flew into the air, which were used to maintain the qualifications of the pilots and fly the required hours. Given that the Tiger-2 no longer meets modern requirements, and the maintenance of heavily worn aircraft is very costly, it can be expected that all F-5E / F and KF-5E / F will be decommissioned in the next few years.
F-4E fighters of the South Korean Air Force
According to information provided by World Air Forces 2020, ROKAF still has 69 F-4E Phantom II multirole fighters.
South Korean fighters F-4E Phantom II
The first F-4D Phantom IIs entered service with the South Korean Air Force in 1968. Prior to the arrival of the F-16C / D fighters in ROKAF, Phantoms were the only interceptors capable of using medium-range missiles at any time of the day and in difficult weather conditions.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-4E Phantom II and F-5E Tiger II fighters at Cheongju airbase
However, judging by everything, the RK Air Force intends to finally part with this relic of the Cold War.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-4E Phantom II fighters deposited at Cheongju airbase
According to information published in open sources, the 17th Fighter Wing, based in Cheongju and flying an F-4E, has been rearmed with American 5th generation F-35A fighters. The Phantoms of the 10th Fighter Wing, based in Suwon, were actively exploited until 2018.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-4E Phantom II fighters at Suwon airbase
South Korean F-4E Phantom II, which are close to the exhaustion of the airframe and are in the final stage of their life cycle, formally being part of ROKAF, have been put into storage and will be written off after the arrival of new combat aircraft.
FА-50 fighters of the South Korean Air Force
In 2014, ROKAF adopted the FA-50 Golden Eagle light supersonic fighter. This aircraft was created jointly by KAI and Lockheed Martin on the basis of the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer. The contract for the delivery of the first batch of 20 FA-50 worth $ 600 million was signed in January 2012. In total, by the end of 2019, the KAI company had to transfer 60 light fighters to the customer.
Fighter FA-50 Golden Eagle
Initially, the T-50 was planned as a supersonic training aircraft for training pilots on the South Korean F-15K and KF-16C \ D, and was also considered as a light attack aircraft. The prototype T-50 Golden Eagle flew its first flight on August 20, 2002. The order for the first 25 T-50s was placed at the end of 2003.
After the T-50 confirmed its characteristics and proved itself well during trial operation, the question arose of creating a light supersonic fighter, which in the RK Air Force was supposed to replace the outdated F-5E / F.
Satellite image of Google Earth: T-50 and F-5E aircraft at Gwangju airbase
According to information published by KAI, the maximum take-off weight of the two-seater FA-50 Golden Eagle is 12300 kg. The aircraft uses a General Electric F404 turbofan engine with an afterburner produced under license in South Korea. The maximum engine thrust is 8045 kgf. The maximum flight speed at high altitude is 1650 km. Cruising speed - 980 km / h. Practical flight range - 1850 km. Weapons weighing up to 7 kg can be placed on 3000 suspension nodes. A three-barreled 20-mm cannon with 200 rounds of ammunition, as well as AIM-9 Sidewinder and AIM-120 AMRAAM missiles, can be used to engage air targets. The EL / M-2032 pulse-Doppler radar is intended for detecting air and surface targets, working in terrain mapping mode and using aircraft weapons. Airborne radar, developed by the Israeli company ELTA Systems, is capable of detecting an air target with an RCS of 5 sq. m at a distance of up to 100 km. The avionics F / A-50 includes the Link-16 data exchange system, radar warning equipment and night vision devices. The cockpit is equipped with colored multifunctional indicators and equipment for displaying information on the windshield.
Satellite image of Google Earth: FA-50 fighters at Sesan airbase
Currently, the 8th Fighter Wing, based in Wonju, and the 16th Fighter Wing, based in Yecheon, have 60 FA-50s. There is reason to believe that in the near future another contract will be signed for the supply of an additional batch of fighters, which will finally replace the F-5E / F.
In addition to the main home airfields, FA-50s are often transferred to other airbases, where there are also KF-16C / D and F-5E / F fighters. According to the representatives of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan, the multipurpose FA-50 is comparable in its characteristics to the KF-16D.
F-35A fighters of the South Korean Air Force
In March 2019, the first two F-35A Lightning II fifth-generation fighters arrived at the South Korean Cheongju airbase. The aircraft reached operational readiness at the end of the same year. In total, by 2021, Seoul within the largest stories A South Korean defense contract worth more than $ 7 billion is to receive a total of 40 such vehicles. By December 2019, the South Korean Air Force received 12 F-35A. As of mid-2020, ROKAF already had 15 Lightning 2 fighters.
South Korean fighter F-35A Lightning II
After the development of the F-35A Lightning II by South Korean pilots, the heavily worn F-4E Phantom II multi-role fighters, whose age has already exceeded 40 years, were finally withdrawn from the ROKAF combat composition.
Promising fighter KF-X
In 2010, the Republic of Korea and Indonesia entered into an agreement to jointly develop their own 5th generation fighter. The Indonesian government has agreed to finance 20% of the cost of building the KF-X in exchange for the delivery of 50 fighters upon successful completion of the project. Turkey also wanted to join the program. Ankara agreed to pay 20% of the cost of the program, but at the same time demanded access to all technologies.
Currently, within the framework of the KF-X program, an aircraft is being created, which, in terms of combat characteristics, should be no worse than the American F-16 Block 50 fighter, but at the same time have low radar and thermal signature. In addition, the designers were tasked with increasing the flight range by 50% and the service life by 30%.
The KF-X is being developed by the Korean Aerospace Industries. According to information published in the media, South Korea possesses 70% of the technology required to create its own 5th generation fighter, in connection with which an agreement was concluded with Lockheed Martin on technical support for the project.
Model fighter KF-X
According to available information, the maximum takeoff weight of the KF-X fighter should be 21000 kg. It is planned to use Pratt & Whitney F100-PW-229 or General Electric F110-GE-129 engines as a power plant. Particular attention is paid to high acceleration characteristics, which should be higher than that of the American F-35A. This should enhance the KF-X's potential when used as an interceptor fighter.
It is reported that after the adoption of the KF-X into service, it will receive the designation F-33 Boramae. As of the end of 2019, several experimental prototypes were under construction. The first one is to take off in 2022. The start of serial construction is scheduled for 2026. South Korea plans to have 120 aircraft in service by 2032.
Critics of the KF-X program note that its implementation is associated with great risk, and if the United States refuses to share critical technologies, the adoption of the fighter into service may be postponed indefinitely. In addition, a number of experts believe that if a serial Korean fighter has the appearance of a mock-up, it will be significantly inferior to the American F-35A in terms of radar signature.
Fighter aircraft of the United States Air Force, stationed in South Korea
F-16C fighters of the 8th Fighter Wing over Kusan Air Base
In the Republic of Korea, there are two American air bases, Osan and Kusan, where a large grouping of combat aircraft with a total number of about 100 units is permanently deployed. The airbases have capital reinforced concrete shelters for aircraft, they are also permanently covered by the Patriot air defense system.
Satellite image of Google Earth: F-16 fighters of the 8th Fighter Wing of the United States Air Force at Kusan Air Base
The U.S. Air Force 7th Air Force, stationed in South Korea, is represented by the 8th Fighter Wing (42 F-16C / D) and the 51st Fighter Wing (36 F-16C / D belonging to the 36th Fighter Squadron, and 24 A-10C Thunderbolt II attack aircraft from the 25th Fighter Squadron).
F-16 fighters and A-10 attack aircraft of the 51st Fighter Wing at Osan Air Base
The United States Air Force 7th Air Force Command and ROKAF have established close interaction and joint exercises are regularly held. Kusan airbase also hosts KF-16C / D of the 38th Fighter Group of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan.
Layout of American air bases in South Korea
The total number of fighters of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Air Force of the United States of America at South Korean air bases reaches 500 combat aircraft. Their flight range allows them to operate over a significant part of the Russian Far East. Not all South Korean combat aircraft are modern, and some of the outdated and heavily worn ROKAF fighters will be decommissioned in the next few years. However, for a relatively small country, South Korea has a solid number of fighters.
A US Air Force F-16C fighter from the 8th Fighter Wing takes off from a South Korean airbase
Comparison of the number of fighters of the Air Force of the Republic of Kazakhstan and the Air Force of the United States of America deployed on the territory of the Republic of Korea with the fighter group of the Red Banner 11th Army of the Air Force and Air Defense in the Khabarovsk and Primorsky Territories is quite indicative. According to information published in publicly available open sources, the 22nd IAP (Tsentralnaya Uglovaya and Sokolovka airfields) includes 12 Su-35S, 2 Su-30SM, 4 Su-30M2, 4 Su-27SM and 24 MiG-31BSM. At the Dzemgi airfield in Komsomolsk-on-Amur, the 23rd IAP is based, in which there are 24 Su-35S, 4 Su-30SM and 2 Su-30M2. Even if we do not take into account the outdated F-5E / F and light fighters FA-50, the comparison of the size of the fighter fleet will be very much not in our favor.
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