|Republic of Korea Air Force|
Mark of the Republic of Korea Air Force
|Active||October 1, 1949 – present|
|Country||Republic of Korea|
|Part of||Ministry of National Defense|
|Mascot||Haneuli / Purumae|
War on Terrorism
|Air Force Chief of Staff||General Lee Gye-hoon|
The ROKAF has about 500 combat aircraft of American design, plus a few Russian, European, and indigenously designed aircraft.
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 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.
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 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 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.
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.
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.
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.
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. 
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.
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.
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, and the project has been deemed economically unviable in a recent study by the Korea Development Institute.
|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
|Avro 748||United Kingdom||VIP transport||HS.748||2||Tail numbers 1713 and 1718|
|Sikorsky UH-60||United States||VIP transport
|Boeing 737||United States||VIP transport||737-3Z8||1||Korean Air Force One|
|CASA CN-235|| Spain
|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
|Raytheon Hawker 800||United States||reconnaissance||Hawker 800RA
|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|
|KAI KT-1 Ungbi||South Korea||trainer
forward air control & liaison
|KAI T-50 Golden Eagle||South Korea||advanced trainer
CRT trainer/light attacker
under delivery, Black Eagles aerobatic team will use T-50 until T-50B delivered
|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||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|
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.
|ROK Air Force rank||ROK Air Force insignia|
|ROK Air Force rank||ROK Air Force insignia|
|ROK Air Force rank||ROK Air Force insignia|
(Chief Master Sergeant)
(Senior Master Sergeant)
|ROK Air Force rank||ROK Air Force insignia|
(Airman First Class)
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.