The Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 programme has suffered a serious blow after the United Arab Emirates selected the Alenia Aermacchi M346 for its advanced lead-in fighter trainer requirement.
If the South Korean company and Lockheed Martin, which helped to develop the aircraft and works with KAI to market it internationally, want to develop an export market for the T-50 (left), they need to assess what went wrong in the UAE and do it quickly.
The next major competition is in Singapore, where the T-50 is up against the M-346 (below) once again. The aircraft is also in contention in Poland against the BAE Systems Hawk 51 modified by Finland’s Patria. Chile, Greece and the USA are other markets further down the line.
Abu Dhabi has not said why it went for the M-346 but does not take a lot to figure out that a combination of cost and capabilities ultimately decided the competition. The UAE is a savvy customer, as is Singapore. They know what they want, and it is up to the manufacturers to convince them that they have the best product.
Marketing plays a big part in any competition as well. At the end of the day, countries likes the UAE and Singapore only want an aircraft that ensures their pilots are properly trained to fly their new generation fighters.
The Italians have kept the attention on the M-346′s training capabilities at every opportunity, and used this to say why they are the best option for the countries that are assessing the aircraft. KAI and Lockheed have raved about the T-50′s ability to go supersonic and have attack variants, but that adds to the perception that it is simply a souped up toy that simply costs too much for an advanced trainer requirement. The T-50 marketing team needs to go back to the basics.
Winning in the UAE has given the M-346 an edge in upcoming coming competitions, but this can be a good wake up call for KAI and Lockheed if they learn the right lessons from their loss.