Home Asian News Can smaller countries produce competitive fighters? - Diplomat

Can smaller countries produce competitive fighters? – Diplomat


Korea has launched a new indigenous fighter prototype, KF-21 Boramae. The new jet will complement the country’s predominantly US-made fleet, match its older F-15 and F-16 fighters and complement its completely new, fifth generation F-35 aircraft.

As fighters have becomes more complicated and expensiveself-produced middle powers have become rarer. That doesn’t mean attempts are not being made: Turkey, Japan, India and England All have kicked off their own fifth-generation (or so-called) fighter development programs, though only Japan flies and that’s in prototype form. Therefore, it is not yet certain whether the medium powers can successfully and economically compete with the existing fifth generation fighters developed by Russia, China and the United States. are not.

In principle, however, it is easy to understand why they were trying. But the point is to “succeed” – building an aircraft that can survive and complete strategic missions on the battlefield in the future is one thing. Doing so financially sustainably is an entirely different and potentially more challenging task.

Currently, for countries linked to the United States, there is only one fifth generation aircraft: the F-35. (The US Air Force also flew the slightly older F-22 Raptor but was larger and faster, but that jet did. especially banned from export by Congress and production stopped a decade ago, so there is no real prospect of export sales.) Hence, the defense industry of another country that can fill is defined. by what the F-35’s boundary is and doesn’t. .

The goal of the F-35 is everything for all users: surgical attack fighter aircraft, stealth air-to-air aircraft, battlefield connection and reconnaissance button, manpower factor of the carrier combat group and capable close-range air support platform operates independently of runways or large, vulnerable carriers. Compromises were made at the design stage to create a Swiss Army flying knife is fully documentedSo I won’t rehash them here.

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The optimism of the F-35 is that there is a clear history of military aircraft carrying contradictory and excessive mission requirements and experiencing a long and costly development hell first. when it becomes successful systems – F-4 Phantom, For example. But even that optimism is based on the acknowledgment that the F-35 has become too big to fail: there is no alternative program waiting on the wings, hundreds are already in service, total. Allied procurement strategies has been fabricated around this particular plane.

The degree to which the F-35 ended as a clue of all deals, with no master at all, creates opportunities for nations to ignore. expenses for watering tears, worry about it rate available, or need abilities unsuitable for its expertise. For example, a stealth, single-engine, short-range fighter might not be the best option for a country with a large maritime EEZ and not much of potential demand for penetration attack mission.

That brings us back to Boramae, which Seoul hopes to put into production by 2026. Instead of a stealth, fifth-generation fighter jet, really, it is. designed as a stepping stone: its shape is designed to minimize its radar markings, but it will carry its stores outward, which is incompatible with true stealth (a generational marker) Thursday). Facing one main foe Those whose anti-aircraft radars lag far behind modern, but have a vast and growing arsenal, a slightly less competent fighter that can be purchased in larger quantities is very reasonable, especially if its limitations can be addressed from time to time. And to realize the problem of development, Seoul is probably betting that other countries are facing a similar strategic dilemma – and has signed a contract with Indonesia as a development partner.

However, it is a gamble. Recent history has many examples of companies – American, Europe and if not – try to create a niche for cheaper, creatively designed planes, designed to deliver 90% of the possibilities at 50% of the cost. Most fail, partly because there are both political and tactical advantages when purchased from one of the superpowers; partly because there is a vibrant market for lighter, often cheaper, used fighters any new option; And partly because there are very few examples of such high-end systems being used in real combat that a system has. any The record type can be considered more reliable than the untested record type.

Boramae can achieve its design and operational goals, and the Korean government can also calculate that promoting domestic industry will make their investment worthwhile even if it doesn’t. become an export success like Gripen of Sweden. But even in the re-armament world, the fighter jet market isn’t so big, and competing with its biggest competitors is not just a good product.

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