Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 accomplished first successful firing of IRIS-T as guided missile, proving initial air-to-air capability

May 17, 2024 – Diehl Defence’s IRIS-T short-range air-to-air missile (AIM-2000) has been fired for the first time as guided missile from KAI’s KF-21, Korea’s 4.5th generation indigenous fighter currently under development. This test firing marks another significant milestone in Korea’s most important fighter program.

The successful firing this month follows previous successes of IRIS-T evaluations on the KF-21: Just a few months after the first flight of the aircraft in early 2023, a safe separation test was done by firing an unguided missile in flight in May 2023. Now in May 2024, the missile was designated by the onboard AESA radar, and it successfully engaged the target drone. This end-to-end test proves the initial air-to-air capability of the fighter and underlines once more the outstanding performance of IRIS-T.

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Manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries and Diehl Defence have worked closely together since 2017 towards this achievement. Due to their perfect collaboration, both companies achieved another successful integration of Europe’s most advanced short-range air-to-air missile.

Helmut Rauch, Diehl Defence CEO, said: “I congratulate KAI to their outstanding performance on the KF-21 development program. At Diehl Defence we are proud to be part of this success story with our IRIS-T air-to-air missile.”

The successful live firing from the KF-21 is also an important milestone for the IRIS-T program track record. With the upcoming integration into the KF-21, IRIS-T proves once more its compatibility with both legacy and modern fighter aircraft. Just in February 2024 KAI and Diehl Defence agreed to start the integration of IRIS-T into KAI’s FA-50. With IRIS-T on board, both platforms, KF-21 and FA-50, will be ready for demanding missions.

So far, IRIS-T has been integrated into major combat aircraft platforms such as Panavia Tornado, Eurofighter Typhoon, JAS-39 Gripen, F-16, EF-18 and F-5. The system is in service or on order with several NATO countries as well as Brazil, Thailand, Saudi Arabia and South Africa.

Images courtesy Diehl