|Republic of Korea Air Force|
|Founded||1 October 1949|
|Part of||Republic of Korea Armed Forces|
|Mascot(s)||Haneuli and Purumae|
|Commander-in-Chief||President Yoon Suk-yeol|
|Minister of National Defense||Lee Jong-sup|
|Air Force Chief of Staff||General Park In-ho|
|Low Visibility Roundel|
|Fighter||F-5E, F-4E, F-16C, F-15K, FA-50, F-35A|
|Helicopter||Bell 412, CH-47D, HH-60P, S-92, Ka-32, MD 500 Defender, Eurocopter AS332|
|Attack helicopter||MD 500 Defender|
|Patrol||RQ-4 Global Hawk|
|Reconnaissance||RC-800, Dassault Falcon 2000|
|Trainer||F-5F, KAI KT-1, TA-50/50B, KT-100|
|Transport||Boeing 747, Boeing 737, CASA CN-235, C-130H, C-130J|
The Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF; Korean: 대한민국 공군; RR: Daehanminguk Gong-gun), also known as the ROK Air Force or South Korean Air Force, is the aerial warfare service branch of South Korea, operating under the Ministry of National Defense of the Republic of Korea.
Shortly after the end of World War II, the South Korean Air Construction Association was founded on August 10, 1946, 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 South Korean Ministry of National Defense. On September 13, 1949, the United States contributed 10 L-4 Grasshopper observation aircraft to the South Korean air unit. An Army Air Academy was founded in January 1949, and the ROKAF was officially founded in 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 trainers and liaison aircraft, including 10 North American T-6 Texan 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 North American F-51D Mustangs, along with a contingent of US Air Force instructor pilots under the command of Major Dean Hess, as part of Bout One Project. 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 North American T-28 Trojan trainers, North American F-86D Sabre night- and all-weather interceptors, Northrop F-5 fighters and McDonnell Douglas F-4D Phantom 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. The Eunma Unit was founded in 1966 to operate Curtiss C-46 Commando transport aircraft used to support Republic of Korea Army and Republic of Korea Marine Corps units serving in South Vietnam 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 the purchase of Northrop F-5E Tiger II fighters in August 1974 and F-4E fighter-bombers. Support aircraft, such as Fairchild C-123 Providers and Grumman S-2 Trackers were also purchased at the time. Great emphasis was placed in the flight training program; new trainer aircraft (Cessna T-41 Mescalero and Cessna 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 the North Korean Air Force. In 1982, Korean variants of the F-5E, the Jegong-ho 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. 40 General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters were also purchased in 1989.
South Korea committed its support for coalition forces during the Persian Gulf War, forming the "Bima Unit" to fight in the war. 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.
The last of the old South Korean 60 F-5A/B fighters were all retired in August 2007, and they were replaced with the F-15K and F/A-50. On October 20, 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.
The South Korean Air Force also expressed interests in acquiring the RQ-4 Global Hawk remotely piloted vehicle (RPV) and a number of Joint Direct Attack Munition conversion kits to further improve its intelligence and offensive capabilities. In 2014, Northrop Grumman awarded a contract to provide South Korea with four RQ-4 Global. The South Korean Airforce acquired 40 F-35s and +20 additional F-35.
In 2021, the Space Operations Center was established at the Air Force Headquarters.
Main article: KAI KF-21 Boramae
The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-21 Boramae (Northern Goshawk) is a multi-role 4.5 generation fighter. It will have capabilities in between the light FA-50 fighter and the high-grade, long range, heavy payload F-15K and F-35 Lightning II.
Main article: KUS-FS MALE
The indigenously developed KUS-FS, nicknamed MUAV or Korean Unmanned System (KUS-FS), is designed for armed land and sea Intelligence, Surveillance and Reconnaissance (ISR) missions with endurance of up to 24 hours. Its maiden flight was in 2012. Korean Air's Aerospace Division (KAL-ASD) unveiled its MALE UAV in 2019 with LIG Nex1 SAR and Hanwha EO/IR sensors, aimed for serial production in 2021. It reportedly has a wider wingspan than the Reaper at 25 m and is powered by a 1200 hp Pratt & Whitney PT6 turboprop engine.
In the spring of 2017 the PIP missile (M-SAM Block II) began its final tests, during which it shot down five of five practice ballistic missile targets. Seven (batteries) are scheduled for deployment throughout South Korea by 2022.
L-SAM refers to a locally made long-range surface-to-air missile current under development, while the Cheolmae II, also known as KM-SAM, is a domestically manufactured medium-range surface-to-air missile capable of engaging an incoming target at an altitude as high as 20 kilometers. The new project has been nicknamed the K-THAAD due to its planned long range of 25 to 93 miles and ability to hit targets high as 200,000 feet. Nearly $1 billion has been devoted to the L-SAM or Cheolmae-4, which is scheduled for completion in 2022 with deployment of four batteries to follow a year or two afterwards.
South Korea's Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) has launched a project to develop an indigenous long-range air defense radar. Foreign-manufactured radars (Lockheed Martin TPS-77) currently in use to monitor Kadiz will be phased out and replaced with the new domestic equipment starting from 2027, according to the agency.
|KAI T-50||Republic of Korea||light multirole||FA-50||60|
|F-4 Phantom II||United States||fighter-bomber||F-4E||69|
|Northrop F-5||United States||light fighter||F-5E||156|
|Boeing F-15E||United States||strike fighter||F-15K||59|
|F-16 Fighting Falcon||United States||multirole||(K)F-16C/D/V||167||49 D variants are used for training|
|F-35 Lightning II||United States||multirole||F-35A||40|
|Boeing 737 AEW&C||United States||AEW&C||E-737||4||employs a Multi-role Electronically Scanned Array radar|
|Hawker 800||United Kingdom||reconnaissance / SIGINT||RC-800s||8|
|Dassault Falcon||France||ELINT||2000||2||4 on order|
|Airbus A330 MRTT||Spain||aerial refueling / transport||KC-30A||4|
|Boeing 747||United States||VIP transport||747-8||1||Presidential transport leased from Korean Air since 2022.|
|Boeing 737||United States||VIP transport||737-300||1|
|CASA CN-235||Spain||transport / utility||18|
|Lockheed C-130||United States||tactical airlift||C-130H||12|
|Lockheed C-130J||United States||tactical airlift||4|
|Bell 412||United States||utility||3|
|Boeing CH-47||United States||transport / CSAR||CH-47D||9|
|Sikorsky S-70||United States||utility / CSAR||HH-60P||17|
|Sikorsky S-92||United States||VIP||3|
|MD 500 Defender||United States||scout / light attack||25|
|Eurocopter AS332||France||utility / transport||3|
|Northrop F-5||United States||conversion trainer||F-5F||29|
|KAI KT-1||Republic of Korea||trainer / light attack||104|
|KAI T-50||Republic of Korea||LIFT||TA-50/50B||22 / 60||20 on order|
|KAI KC-100||Republic of Korea||trainer||KT-100||23|
|RQ-4 Global Hawk||United States||surveillance||RQ-4B||4|
Previous aircraft operated by the Air Force consisted of the P-51 Mustang, North American F-86 Sabre, F-4 Phantom II, Curtiss C-46, Douglas C-47, Grumman S-2 Tracker, Lockheed T-33, North American T-28, North American T-6, Sikorsky H-19, and the Bell UH-1 Huey.
The ROKAF Air Defence Artillery Command transferred from the Republic of Korea Army's air defense artillery and was established as a basic branch on 1 July 1991.
|MIM-104 Patriot||United States||ABM / SAM system||PAC-3||8 batteries|
|KM-SAM Cheongung||Republic of Korea||medium range ABM / SAM system||Block I||18 batteries|
|Block II||1 (6 on order)|
|M167 VADS||Republic of Korea||anti-aircraft gun||KM167A3||200||20mm anti-aircraft gun|
|Man-portable air-defense system|
|KP-SAM Shingung||Republic of Korea||man-portable air-defense system||2,000|
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.
|Rank group||General/flag officers||Field/senior officers||Junior officers||Officer cadet|
| Republic of Korea Air Force
|Rank group||Senior NCOs||Junior NCOs||Enlisted|
| Republic of Korea Air Force
|ROK Air Force's rank||ROK Air Force's insignia|
|Jun-wi (warrant officer)