Korea Aerospace Industries and the Philippines will soon commence final negotiations for the purchase of 12 FA-50 fighter aircraft.

A source close to the deal tells Flightglobal that negotiations will commence in February. The source expects negotiations to last for six months. If discussions are successful, Manila could receive its first FA-50s in 2015.

The source's comments came after Philippine media reports quoted presidential spokesman Edwin Lacierda as saying that Manila will move forward with negotiations for the 12 aircraft.

Lacierda reportedly said that the aircraft will be used "primarily for training, interdiction and disaster response".

"These planes have camera capabilities to monitor and also to take pictures of disaster areas," he says. "So it will be used in a number of ways."

A lack of fighters is a major capability gap for the Philippines, which retired its last Northrop F-5s in 2004. The shortfall is especially pressing, given the development of China's air force in recent years, and territorial disputes between Manila and Beijing in the South China Sea.

The Philippine air force can use the FA-50 both as a trainer to regenerate its ability to operate fighters and as a combat aircraft, if necessary.

In January 2012, Seoul placed a $600 million order for 20 FA-50s, the most advanced variant of the T-50 trainer. It could eventually acquire a total of 60 to 100 of the type to replace more than 150 Northrop F-5s. It is due to receive its first FA-50s in mid-2013.

Seoul's FA-50s will have the Link 16 tactical data link, as well as an Elta Systems EL/M-2032 pulse doppler radar.

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. The FA-50 also has a 20mm cannon and can carry air-to-air missiles.

The other two variants are the T-50B performance aircraft, and the TA-50, a lightly armed version of the T-50 with a 20mm cannon and the ability to carry air-to-air missiles.

All T-50 variants are powered by General Electric F404 engines.

Source: Flight International