In 1969, South Korea received the first six F-4D Phantom II’s as part of a loan for its participation in the Vietnam War, and in 1976 it ordered another 19 F-4Es. Thursday, On January 25, a South Korean military official announced to the media that all F-4E Phantoms would be officially retired this year.
South Korea completely retired the older F-4D Phantoms on June 16, 2010, 41 years after they entered service, but still operates slightly younger F-4Es and F-5E/F Tiger IIs. F-4E Phantom IIs continue to be used as test aircraft, free from integration and licensing issues, while developing new aircraft weapons. In turn, F-5E/F Tiger II are still used for alert scramble as part of air policing missions.
However, since 2000, as the accident rate of F-4D/E and F-5E/F fighters increased due to overall structural obsolescence, plans were proposed to replace the F-4E fighters with Lockheed Martin F-35A Lightning II multi-role aircraft, and the F-5E/F aircraft with South Korean design, which are currently known as KF-21 Boramae.
As a result, only the 153rd Fighter Squadron ROKAF at Suwon Air Base currently has 19 F-4E Phantom II’s, which will be withdrawn from service in the first half of this year. The F-5E/F will be retired in 2030, and the 18th Fighter Wing at Gangwon Air Base is expected to be the first to receive the KF-21 Block-I, starting in 2026.