Seoul picks Sensor Fused Weapon for F/A-50 fighter

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South Korea has selected Textron Defense Systems' Sensor Fused Weapon (SFW) for integration with Korea Aerospace Industries' developmental F/A-50 light attack aircraft.

Textron will deliver its first inert integration rounds this year under the US Foreign Military Sales deal, which was announced by the company on 6 April. The contract has been agreed with Seoul's Defense Acquisition Program Administration, which is also funding the development of the F/A-50 for South Korea's air force.

"The integration of our SFW smart area weapon on to the highly capable F/A-50 aircraft is an important first step toward system purchases in the future," says Textron Defense Systems senior vice-president and general manager Mark Catizone.

The 453kg (1,000lb)-class SFW deploys 10 BLU-108 submunitions, each containing four individual "skeet" warheads. Equipped with a passive infrared array and active laser sensor, an individual warhead will self-destruct 8s after launch, or at around 50ft (15m) above the ground if it fails to detect a valid target. Should this process fail, a time-out function "will yield the warhead inert within minutes of hitting the ground", Textron says.

"Thousands of tests in various conditions", have demonstrated a submunition reliability rate of over 99%, and "distinguished SFW from legacy [cluster] munitions", Textron says.

The company has previously sold the design to nations including India, Oman, Turkey, the United Arab Emirates and the USA. It had also secured export approvals by late last year to pursue deals in around 20 more Asian, European and Middle Eastern countries.

South Korea in late 2008 awarded KAI a 400 billion won ($357 million) contract to modify four T-50 advanced jet trainers as prototype F/A-50s. Its air force should begin testing the new version in 2012, and could eventually place production orders for between 60 and 150 of the light attack aircraft.

 t-50
The F/A-50 is being developed from the T-50 trainer. Photo: Korea Aerospace Industries

Other US-sourced weapons for the type could include bombs equipped with Boeing's Joint Direct Attack Munition guidance kit and Raytheon's AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missile, while Israeli firm Elisra will provide electronic warfare equipment.