The first of four flight development Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI)/Lockheed Martin T-50 Golden Eagle lead-in fighter trainers is expected to make its maiden flight in early June, with the second due to join the test programme in August.

"We've had two first-flight readiness reviews and everything looks on track," says Robie Notestine, senior marketing director for T-50 International - the joint company set up to market the aircraft.

The third and fourth development aircraft are in production and will join the programme by the middle of next year, while structural tests are now under way on the dynamic and static test airframes. The prototype was rolled out in South Korea in October last year.

Deliveries to the South Korean air force of the first 94 on firm order are scheduled to start around mid-2005, South Korea has options on another 100 A-50s as a replacement for an ageing fleet of Northrop F-5E/Fs. The Mach 1.4 aircraft is being offered at a baseline fly-away price of between $20 million and $22 million without weapons and fire control radar, and will be available for deliveries to other countries "from early 2006", says Notestine. T-50 International believes the potential export market is for around 800 aircraft over a period of 20 years.

Source: Flight International