Iraqi air force orders 24 KAI T-50s

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Iraq has signed a $1.1 billion contract for 24 Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 advanced jet trainers, giving the South Korean firm its second international customer for the type. The deal was signed between Iraqi government officials and senior officials from KAI on 12 December.

“I am thankful to the Iraqi government to purchase the T-50 aircraft,” says Ha Sung-yong, president and chief executive of KAI.

“I think that the T-50 is the most optimal aircraft suitable for Iraq’s military operations. We will make our utmost efforts to support the Iraqi air force and ensure the smooth operation of the T-50.”

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Korea Aerospace Industries

The first aircraft will be delivered in April 2016, with all 24 to be transferred within a 12-month period. The deal also covers training for Iraqi pilots, while KAI will provide follow-on support for the fleet for 20 years, bringing the entire value of the contract to over $2 billion.

Iraq will use the designation T-50IQ for its aircraft. A source close to the deal, however, says the T-50IQ will actually be based on the most advanced version of the T-50, the FA-50, which can serve both as an advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft.

The FA-50 now being delivered to South Korea’s air force (below) is equipped with the Link 16 tactical data link, as well as a mechanically scanned array radar, radar warning receiver and a night vision imaging system. It is capable of carrying 4,500kg (9,910lb) of weapons, has a 20mm cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles. All T-50 variants are powered by the General Electric F404 engine.

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Korea Aerospace Industries

The T-50 beat the Aero Vodochody L-159, BAE Systems Hawk 128 and Irkut-built Yakovlev Yak-130 for the Iraqi requirement. It will be used to prepare pilots for Baghdad's on-order fleet of Lockheed Martin F-16IQ fighters.

KAI, which last year made its first export deliveries of the T-50 to Indonesia, has current sales campaigns for the type in Botswana, Chile and the Philippines. The aircraft will also compete in the US Air Force’s future T-X competition to replace the Northrop T-38, with the model to be offered in conjunction with development partner Lockheed.