The KF-5E is an F-5 produced under license by Korean Air, and 48 of the 68 KF-5 series are of this type. The aircraft numbers range from 81-00558 to 81-00593 and 81-00614 to 81-00625. They are still on a scramble mission.
In January 1978, when the F-5E/F was actively being deployed, President Park Chung-hee announced, “In the mid-1980s, we will increase our development capabilities so that we can produce aircraft.” At the 1st defense industry promotion meeting held on August 26, he ordered the early launch of the aircraft production plan. The following year, on July 1, 1979, the government that confirmed the production target model as the F-5E/F signed a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with the United States on joint production of the F-5E/F in October 1983 and supervised Korean Air was selected as the operator.
The domestic fighter jet manufacturing project, which was carried out in the form of license production, achieved a 21% localization rate during the seven-year business period from 1980 to 1986, with Korean Air in charge of making and assembling aircraft and Samsung Precision (currently Hanwha Aerospace). On September 9, 1982, about 10 months after the production of domestic fighter jets began, the KF-5F “Jegong No. 1” shipping event was held at Korean Air’s Gimhae plant. This made South Korea the third largest producer of fighter jets in Asia after Japan and Taiwan. On the same day, President Chun Doo-hwan named it “Jegong-Ho: 제공호” to conquer the sky.
A total of 68 KF-5E/Fs were produced and deployed to the 101st, 112th, 201st, 206th, and 207th Fighter Squadrons, and have been defending the airspace of the Republic of Korea so far(The 207th Fighter Squadron has now been dismissed).
The KF-5E has several differences from the F-5E, which was directly imported from the United States. The nose was changed from a conical shape to a shark nose radome, and the area of the LEX was also increased to improve lateral stability during high AOA maneuvers. In addition, an auto flap system that automatically optimizes the shape of the main wing according to flight data was introduced, improving maneuverability. In detail, the position of the AOA vane was moved from the right side of the fuselage to the left side due to the rearrangement of electronic devices inside the front fuselage, and a pressurization vent was added to the left side of the rear frame of the canopy.
The KF-5E is equipped with two 20mm M39A2 cannons just like the F-5E. And for air-to-ground armament, it operates Mk82 bombs, 2.75-inch rocket pods, Mk20 armor-destroying cluster ammunition, and CBU-58 man-killing cluster ammunition, and operates AIM-9P-3/P-4 as air-to-air armament. The AIM-9P-4 is equipped with the same seeker as the AIM-9L, enabling limited omnidirectional shooting.
It is noteworthy that the KGGB, a Korean-made guided bomb, can be operated. The KGGB is an all-weather precision guided bomb with a medium-range GPS guidance kit installed in the 500lbs general purpose bomb and added guidance function, which can be dropped outside the enemy’s air defense network and glide along the route set by its own guided navigation method to hit targets up to 100km away.
The radar was replaced with the APG-159 radar, which has twice the detection range (approximately 65 km) than the previous one. CMDS (Counter Measure Dispenser System) uses AN/ALE-40 dispenser, RWR (Radar Warning Receiver) uses AN/ALR-46(V)9. The dispenser usually holds 30 flares and 15 chaffs. Also, unlike the F-5E, a T-shaped ILS was installed at the top of the vertical tail.
The ROK Air Force’s F-5 series ejection seats were all replaced with US-16Ts by May 2013 after the F-5F crashed at Gangneung Base in 2010 and both pilots died on duty due to the ejection altitude restrictions of the old ejection seats. The ejection seat escaped in September 2013 after an F-5E pilot descended 1,000 ft more than the optimal escape altitude of 5,000 ft, but his life was saved as the new ejection seat worked normally.
One of the unique design points of the KF-5E is the canted frame of the rear fuselage (called Boattail in the Korean Air Force), and the entire engine storage frame including the horizontal tail fin is detachable. Thanks to this, three skilled personnel can remove the engine within 20 to 30 minutes.
Landing Gear Width (Front To Back): 5.16m
Landing Gear Width (Left To Right): 3.81m
Empty Weight: 4,410kg
Engine: J85-GE-21 (1,855kgf to 2,267kgf)
Max Speed: 2025km/h (Mach 1.64)
Guns: 2 × 20mm M39A2
AAM: 2 × AIM-9P-3 or AIM-9P-4
Rockets: 4 × LAU-3/A (76 × Hydra 70)
Bombs: 5 × Mk.82
5 × KGGB
5 × Mk.20
5 × CBU-58
(Left) F-5E / (Right) KF-5E
The F-5E adopted a conical nose and the KF-5E adopted a shark nose. Shark nose is also called duck snout by soldiers.
Auxiliary air intake of KF-5E
RWR of KF-5E