South Korea has placed a $600 million order with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for 20 examples of the FA-50 attack variant of the T-50 advanced jet trainer.
KAI said that under the deal it will deliver the aircraft from 2013 to 2014. Seoul could acquire a total of 60 to 150 FA-50s to replace its fleet of more than 150 Northrop F-5s.
The FA-50 is the most advanced variant of the T-50. It will have the Link 16 tactical data link, as well as an Elta Systems EL/M-2032 pulse doppler radar.
Northrop Grumman and Raytheon have said the FA-50 is a candidate for their respective active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars developed for the Lockheed Martin F-16. If the FA-50 does get an AESA radar, it is likely to be the same one chosen for the eventual F-16 radar upgrade for the US Air Force and Republic of Korea Air Force.
© Korea Aerospace Industries
The FA-50 is the most advanced variant of KAI's T-50 Golden Eagle
The FA-50 also has a radar warning receiver and a night vision imaging system. It is capable of carrying 4,500kg (9,920lb) of weapons, including the Boeing Joint Direct Attack Munition and Textron CBU-97 Sensor Fused Weapon. Like the TA-50, it also has a 20mm cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles.
Aside from the original T-50 and FA-50, KAI has also produced the T-50B enhanced manoeuvrability aerobatic variant and armed TA-50. All of these are powered by a single General Electric F404 engine.
Separately, Seoul is expected to issue a request for proposals in February for its F-X III competition to replace 60 McDonnell Douglas F-4 Phantoms. The contenders are the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, Eurofighter Typhoon, Lockheed Martin F-35 and Sukhoi PAK FA.
Industry observers have said Japan's recent selection of the F-35 for its 42 aircraft F-X fighter requirement will enhance the type's chances in South Korea as well.