South Korean Air Force: Wikis


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Republic of Korea Air Force
ROK af logo.png
Mark of the Republic of Korea Air Force
Active October 1, 1949 – present
Country  Republic of Korea
Type Air Force
Size 65,000(2008)[1]
Part of Ministry of National Defense
Garrison/HQ Gyeryong
Mascot Haneuli / Purumae
Aircraft 840(2009)
Engagements Korean War
Vietnam War
Gulf War
War on Terrorism
Air Force Chief of Staff General Lee Gye-hoon
Roundel Roundel of the Republic of Korea Air Force.svg

The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROK Air Force, ROKAF, Hangul: 대한민국 공군, Hanja: 大韓民國 空軍) is the air force of South Korea. It operates under the Ministry of National Defense.

The ROKAF has about 500 combat aircraft of American design, plus a few Russian, European, and indigenously designed aircraft.




Founding Years

Shortly after the end of World War II, the Korean Air Construction Association was founded in 1944 to publicize the importance of air power. Despite the then-scanty status of Korean armed forces, the first air unit was formed on May 5, 1948 under the direction of Dong Wi-bu, the forerunner to the modern Korean Ministry of National Defence. On September 13, 1949, the United States contributed 10 L-4 Grasshopper observation aircraft to the Korean air unit. An Army Air Academy was founded on January, 1949, and the ROKAF was officially founded on October, 1949.

The outbreak of the Korean war and the 1950s

F-51D fighters were among the first aircraft deployed by the ROKAF.

The 1950s were a critical time for the ROKAF as it expanded tremendously during the Korean War. At the outbreak of the war, the ROKAF consisted of 1,800 personnel but was equipped with only 20 trainer and liaison aircraft, including 10 T-6 Texan (Korean:건국기, Hanja: 建國機, Geongukgi) advanced trainers purchased from Canada. The North Korean air force had acquired a considerable number of Yak-9 and La-7 fighters from the Soviet Union, dwarfing the ROKAF in terms of size and strength. However, during the course of the war, the ROKAF acquired 110 aircraft: 79 fighter-bombers, three fighter squadrons, and one fighter wing. The first combat aircraft received were F-51D Mustangs, along with a contingent of US Air Force instructor pilots under the command of Major Dean Hess. The ROKAF participated in bombing operations and flew independent sorties. After the war, the ROKAF Headquarters was moved to Daebangdong, Seoul. Air Force University was also founded in 1956.

The 1960s

To counter the threat of possible North Korean aggression, the ROKAF underwent a substantial capability enhancement. The ROKAF acquired T-28 trainers, F-86D night- and all-weather interceptors, F-5 fighters and F-4D fighter bombers. Air Force Operations Command was established in 1961 to secure efficient command and control facilities. Air Force logistics Command was established in 1966, and emergency runways were constructed for emergency use during wartime. Eunma Unit was founded in 1966 to aid the United States during the Vietnam War.

The 1970s

The ROKAF was posed with a security risk, with an increasingly belligerent North Korea throughout the 1970s. The South Korean government increased its expenditure on the ROKAF, resulting in purchase of F-5E fighters in August of 1974 and F-4E fighter bombers. Support aircraft, such as C-123s and S-2s were also purchased at the time. Great emphasis was placed in the flight training program; new trainer aircraft (T-41 and T-37) were purchased, and the Air Force Education & Training Command was also founded in 1973 to consolidate and enhance the quality of personnel training.

The 1980s and 1990s

The ROKAF concentrated on qualitative expansion of aircraft to catch up to the strength of North Korean Air Force. In 1982, Korean variants of the F-5E, the Jegong-ho (hangul:제공호, hanja:制空號) were first produced. The ROKAF gathered a good deal of information on the North Korean Air Force when Captain Lee Woong-Pyeong, a North Korean pilot, defected to South Korea. The Korean Combat Operations Information center was soon formed and the Air Defence System was automated to attain air superiority against North Korea. When the 1988 Seoul Olympics was held in South Korea, the ROKAF contributed to the success of this event by helping to oversee the entire security system. The ROKAF also moved its headquarters and the Air Force Education & Training Command to other locations. Forty F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters were obtained by South Korea in 1989.

South Korea committed its support for the coalition force during the Persian Gulf War. The Bima Unit was formed to participate in Operation Desert Storm. The ROKAF also provided airlift support for peacekeeping operations in Somalia in 1993. The increased participation in international operations depicted the ROKAF's elevated international position. Over 180 KF-16 fighters of F-16 Block 52 specifications were introduced as part of the Peace Bridge II & III program from 1994. In 1997, for the first time in Korean aviation history, female cadets were accepted into the Korean Air Force Academy.


Former ROKAF roundel.
Similar to American one.
The ROKAF roundel was recently changed to more closely resemble the national flag

South Korea maintains the modern South Korean Air Force in order to defend itself from various threats, including that of the North Korean Army and North Korean Air Force, which fields about twice as many aircraft (mostly older and obsolescent Soviet-designed fighters). As of 2008, the South Korean Air Force flew more than 180 KF-16, 174 F-5E/F, 130 F-4D/E, 39 F-15K (with 21 additional F-15Ks expected to be delivered between 2010 and 2012), and a number of South Korean-made T-50 among its combat aircraft. The last of the old South Korean 60 F-5A/B fighters were all retired in August 2007, and they are being replaced with the F-15K and FA-50. The South Korean variant the of F-15E were named the F-15K Slam Eagles due to their capability to launch the SLAM-ER missiles and Harpoon Missiles. South Korea became one of the world's few aircraft exporters when it sold 19 KT-1B trainer aircraft to Indonesia in 2003. Korean Aerospace Industries, the South Korean national aerospace company, has plans to export more KT-1 and T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer aircraft to other countries. In addition, the Ilyushin Il-103 prop-driven trainer has replaced the T-41 in the primary training role.

The Republic of Korea Air Force also expressed interests in acquiring the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) and a numbes of Joint Direct Attack Munition conversion kits to further improve its intelligence and offensive capabilities.

On 20 October 2009, Bruce S. Lemkin, deputy undersecretary of the U.S. Air Force said that the ROKAF's limited intelligence, surveillance and reconnaissance (ISR) capabilities increased the risk of instability on the Korean Peninsula and suggested the purchase of American systems such as the F-35 Lightning II to close this gap.[2]

Order of battle

  • Republic of Korea Air Force Headquarters (대한민국 공군본부)
  • Air Force Operations Command (공군작전사령부)
  • 5th Tactical Airlift Wing (제5전술공수비행단)Based at Busan-Gimhae (ICAO RKPK/ IATA PUS)
  • 251st Tactical Air Support Squadron flying C-130H and C-130H-30
  • 256th Tactical Air Support Squadron flying CN235-100M
  • 258th Tactical Support Squadron flying CN235-100M and CN235-220M
  • 259th Tactical Air Support Squadron flying UH-60P
  • 15th Composite Wing (제15혼성비행단)Based at Seongnam(ICAO RKSM/ IATA SSN)
  • 237th Tactical Control Squadron flying 20 KA-1
  • 255th Special Operations Squadron flying C-130H
  • 257th Tactical Air Transport Squadron flying C-130H
  • 35th Combined Group
  • 296th Special Transport Squadron flying the HS-748(2 aircraft tail numbers 1713 and 1718),CN235-220M(2 aircraft tail numbers 02-050 and 02-051)'Boeing 737-3Z6(1 airaraft tail number 85-101),Sikorsky VH-60P and the new Sikorsky S-92(3 helicopters tail numbers 05-035,05-050 and 05-055)
  • 30th Air Defense and Control Wing (제30방공관제단)Based at Osan(ICAO RKSO/IATA OSN)
  • 6th Combat Control Team/Combat Search And Rescue Group (제6탐색구조전대)
  • Air Force Northern Combat Command (공군북부전투사령부) (unit under formation, will be operational by 2010)
  • 8th Fighter Wing (제8전투비행단)Based at Wonju(ICAO RKNW/IATA WBJ)
  • 103rd Fighter Squadron flying F-5E/F-5F/KF-5F
  • 207th Fighter Squadron flying KF-5E and KF-5F
  • 10th Fighter Wing (제10전투비행단)Based at Suwon(ICAO RKSW/IATA SWU)
  • 101st Fighter Squadron flying KF-5E/KF-5F/F-5F
  • 201st Foghter Squadron flying KF-5E/KF-5F/F-5F
  • 39th Tactical Recconnaissance Group
  • 131st Tactical Recconnaissance Squadron flying 17 RF-4C Phantom
  • 17th Fighter Wing (제17전투비행단)Based at Cheongju(ICAO RKTU/IATA CJJ)
  • 152nd Fighter Squadron flying F-4E
  • 153rd Fighter Squadron flying F-4E
  • 156th Fighter Squadron flying F-4E
  • 29th Tactical Development & Training Group
  • 191st Tactical Development & Training Squadron flying F-16C/D and KF-16C/D
  • 192nd Tactical Development & Training Squadron flying F-5E/F and KF-5E/F
  • 6th Search & Rescue Group
  • 233rd Conbat Search & Rescue Squadron flying Bell 412,Eurocopter AS332L/L2 Cougar and Sikorsky HH-60P helicopters
  • 235th Combat Saerch & Rescue Squadron flying Kamov HH-32(KA-32T)and Boeing Vertol HH-47D Chinook helicopters
  • 18th Fighter Wing (제18전투비행단)Based at Gangneung
  • 19th Fighter Wing (제19전투비행단)Based at Chungju
  • 20th Fighter Wing (제20전투비행단)Based at Seosan(ICAO RKTP)
  • 120th Fighter Squadron flying KF-16C/D
  • 121st Fighter Squadron flying KF-16C/D
  • 123rd Fighter Squadron flying KF-16C/D
  • 157th Fighter Squadron flying KF-16C/D
  • Air Force Southern Combat Command (공군남부전투사령부)
  • 1st Fighter Wing (제1전투비행단)
  • 11th Fighter Wing (제11전투비행단) Based at Dae-Gu
  • 102nd Fighter Squadron flying F-15K
  • 122nd Fighter Squadron flying F-15K
  • 151st Fighter Squadron flying F-4D
  • 16th Fighter Wing (제16전투비행단)(ICAO RKTY/IATA YEC)
  • 202 Fighter Squadron flying F-5E/F-5F/KF-5F
  • 216 Flying Training Squadron flying 16 T-59(BAe Hawk Mk.67)
  • Air Defence Artillery Command (방공포병사령부)
  • 1st Air Defence Artillery Brigade (제1방공포병여단)
  • 2nd Air Defence Artillery Brigade (제2방공포병여단)
  • 3rd Air Defence Artillery Brigade (제3방공포병여단)
  • Air Force Logistics Command (공군군수사령부)
  • Maintenance Depots (정비창)
  • Supply Depots (보급창)
  • Transportation Groups (수송단)
  • Air Force University (공군대학)
  • Basic Military Training Wing (기본군사훈련단)
  • 3rd Flying Training Wing (제3훈련비행단)
  • Air Force Aviation Science High School (공군항공과학고등학교)
  • Technical Schools (병과학교)
  • Aerospace Projects Group
  • Aerial Combat Development Group (공군전투발전단)
  • Air Force Academy (공군사관학교)

Current projects

F-15K landing

F-X fighter program

F-X Phase 1

One of the most recent additions to the ROKAF is F-15K Slam Eagle (Korean: F-15K 슬램이글), an advanced derivative of the F-15E Strike Eagle which fulfilled the requirements of the "F-X" next generation fighter program in 2002. The F-15K was chosen over the Dassault Rafale, the Eurofighter Typhoon, and the Russian Sukhoi Su-35. Although the Rafale fighter received more favorable reviews from the senior military officials, the F-15K was chosen at the end due to the easier process of integration into the ROKAF since the Air Force already has supplies of American-designed and made weapons that can be installed on the F-15K more readily than on the Rafale.

F-15K crash controversy

On June 7, 2006, an F-15K tail number 02-005 of the 122nd Fighter Squadron,11th Fighter Wing crashed off the coast of Pohang, North Gyeongsang Province, S. Korea, during a nighttime intercept training mission, killing both pilots on board. The ROKAF commissioned a full investigation, lasting several months. The Republic of Korea Air Force later issued a public statement saying that the accident was apparently caused by both crew members entering a state of g-force Loss-of-Consciousness that lasted 16 seconds and resulted in loss of control of the aircraft. Subsequent public outcry ensued with accusations of a cover-up. Various Discussions included 1. the blackbox (ECSMU) was not recovered, due to the great depth (1200 ft)of the crash site. 2. F-15Ks are NOT equipped with automatic GLC (G Limited Control device?) systems, and 3. the pilots were both seasoned Air Force veterans and the claim that both of them simultaneously lost consciousness for 16 seconds seemed unlikely. (The normal time for gloc is between two and three seconds). Other factors considered in the investigation were the cloudy weather conditions, pilot workload, a night mission with the use of night vision goggles. Flight control actuators and major engine parts that were found and analyzed as part of the investigation which ruled out mechanical problems with the aircraft.[1]

F-X Phase 2

For the second phase of the F-X program, ROKAF has purchased 21 additional F-15K to compensate for the retirement of their F-5A/B in August 2007. The avionics configuration for the Phase 1 and 2 F-15K remains largely identical, and the only differences are that the weapon compatibility has been increased (AGM-158 JASSM, Bunker Busters, etc.) and that the engines have been switched from the F110-STW-129A to the F100-PW-229EEP, an improved version of the F100-PW-229. The new engines have commonality with the F100-PW-229 engines on the KF-16 and are compatible with each other, allowing ROKAF the option to interchange the engines among the KF-16 and Phase 2 F-15K. This allows the F-15K to be equipped with a KF-16's F100-PW-229 if necessary. However, the decision has not been well received by some South Korean military pundits, who remain skeptical about the Pratt & Whitney engines due to its reliability problems on the KF-16 and consider the General Electric engines to be much more reliable. [2][3]

F-X Phase 3

The third phase of the F-X project is a bid for an advanced multi-role strike fighter aircraft by 2014, intended to replace the aging F-4 Phantom II and F-5. The rumored purchase number is 40-60 aircraft (11.6 billion dollar project). The Korean Ministry of Defense has shown interest in the F-22 Raptor, but the United States Department of Defense is unlikely to permit the export of this advanced stealth fighter. The only candidate remaining is the F-35 Lightning II Joint Strike Fighter, but the Boeing Corporation of the United States is proposing its newly-designed F-15SE Silent Eagle to South Korean Air Force.

E-X Early warning aircraft program

The E-X Airborne Early Warning (AEW) airplane program was a project undertaken by ROKAF to purchase early warning aircraft to strengthen ROKAF's ability to detect and distinguish between both friendly and hostile aircraft. The two candidates for this program are the Boeing Wedgetail, military version of the Boeing 737, and the Gulfstream G500/G550, developed by the General Dynamics company of the U.S.

The AEW version of Boeing 737 was offered by the United States, whereas the variant of Gulfstream of G500/G550 was offered by Israel. Originally, ROKAF expressed interest in the Gulfstream as it was cheaper than the Boeing counterpart. The Gulfstream was, in turn, less capable than the 737. However, the fact that almost no other nations, barring Japan, has advanced AWACS gave the Koreans the impression that the Gulfstream would be adequate enough to handle the given task of the E-X project.

In response to ROKAF's favor of the Israeli version of Gulfstream's lower cost, the United States issued a warning to the Israelis that several of the AWACS technologies employed aboard the Israeli Gulfstream were developed by the United States, such as the IFF system, TADIL A/B (link 11) and J (link 16), satellite communications and AN/ARC-164 Have Quick II radios, and thus that Israel was obliged not to resell any of these technologies to another country without the permission of the United Stated.

The winner of the AEW plane competition was chosen as the Boeing E-737 in November, 2006.

KF-X future fighter program

The KF-X program is a early-stage project to develop an indigenous fighter aircraft. The current proposal is to develop an F-16 Block 50 class aircraft with basic stealth capabilities to replace the F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II aircraft. South Korea is reportedly seeking technological assistance from Saab, Boeing and Lockheed Martin for the production of the KF-X. A green-light for the project, however, has met with delays[3], and the project has been deemed economically unviable in a recent study by the Korea Development Institute.[4]

Main equipment


Aircraft Origin Type Versions In service[5] Notes
Fighter Aircraft
Boeing F-15E Strike Eagle  United States fighter-bomber F-15K Slam Eagle 39 (60) 21 under delivery; one crashed airplane is being replaced free of charge
Lockheed F-16 Fighting Falcon  United States fighter
F-16C Block 32
F-16D Block 32
KF-16C Block 52
KF-16D Block 52
KF-16 built by KAI under license

(hull production had terminated in 2005; ROKAF received a total of 180 (K)F-16C/D by then)

McDonnell-Douglas F-4 Phantom II  United States reconnaissance
Northrop F-5E Tiger II  United States fighter
174 F-5E/F to be replaced by FA-50
KF-5 built by KAL under license
Transport Aircraft
Avro 748  United Kingdom VIP transport HS.748 2 Tail numbers 1713 and 1718
Sikorsky UH-60  United States VIP transport
rescue helicopter
Boeing 737  United States VIP transport 737-3Z8 1 Korean Air Force One
CASA CN-235  Spain
tactical transport CN-235-100
built by CASA
built by IAE 6 transport and 2 VVIP airplanes in the Indonesian batch
Lockheed C-130 Hercules  United States tactical transport C-130H
Reconnaissance Aircraft
Raytheon Hawker 800  United States reconnaissance Hawker 800RA
Hawker 800SIG
Trainer Aircraft
BAE Hawk  United Kingdom trainer T-59 Hawk 67 16
Cessna T-37 Tweet  United States trainer T-37C Tweet 25 T-37 is replaced by KT-1
Eurocopter AS 332L Cougar  Indonesia VIP transport helicopter AS 332L 3 built by IPTN
Ilyushin Il-103  Russia trainer T-103 23
KAI KT-1 Ungbi  South Korea trainer
forward air control & liaison
KAI T-50 Golden Eagle  South Korea advanced trainer
aerobatic specialized
CRT trainer/light attacker
light fighter/attacker
0 (10)
0 (22)
0 (60)

under delivery, Black Eagles aerobatic team will use T-50 until T-50B delivered
under delivery
under development
Bell UH-1H Iroquis  United States utility helicopter UH-1H 13 out of service
Bell UH-1N Twin Huey  United States transport helicopter 212
out of service
Boeing CH-47 Chinook  United States rescue helicopter HH-47D 7
Kamov Ka-32 Helix-C  Russia rescue helicopter Ka-32T 7
Sikorsky S-92A Superhawk  United States VIP transport helicopter S-92A 3

Air Defense Artillery

Air Defense Artillery Origin Type Versions In service Notes
Raytheon MIM-104 Patriot  United States surface-to-air missile MIM-104C PAC-2 3 battalions former German Bundeswehr equipment
Raytheon MIM-23 Hawk  United States surface-to-air missile 6 battalions To be replaced by KM-SAM

Military ranks

Officer ranks can be learned fairly easily if one sees the pattern. "So" equals small; "Jung" equals medium; "Dae" equals large. "Jun" equals the prefix sub-.. Each of these is coupled with "wi" equals company grade, "ryeong" equals field grade, and "jang" equals general. This system is due to the hanja or Sino-Korean origin of the names.

Commissioned Officers

ROK Air Force rank ROK Air Force insignia



(Lieutenant General)


(Major General)


(Brigader General)




(Lieutenant Colonel)






(First Lieutenant)


(Second Lieutenant)

Warrant officers

ROK Air Force rank ROK Air Force insignia

(Warrant Officer)


Non-Commissioned Officers

ROK Air Force rank ROK Air Force insignia

(Chief Master Sergeant)


(Senior Master Sergeant)


(Master Sergeant)


(Technical Sergeant)


ROK Air Force rank ROK Air Force insignia

(Staff Sergeant)


(Senior Airman)


(Airman First Class)




(Airman Basic)

¹: No one held the rank of Won-su in the history of the ROK Armed Forces yet.
²: The Jun-wi (Warrant Officer)'s insignia is in brass color while the ones of Second Lieutenant and higher are in silver color.

See also


External links


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