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​PARIS: KAI aiming for international FA-50 sales

Korea Aerospace Industries continues to promote its FA-50 fighter on the international market, as it also attempts to gain a toehold on the global helicopter market with its Surion platform.

Sang Choi, vice-president and general manager of KAI's international marketing division, said the FA-50 is involved in four campaigns on four continents: Asia, South America, Africa, and Europe.

These are separate from the US T-X campaign, where the trainer variant of the single-engined type, the T-50, forms the basis of Lockheed Martin's bid for the replacement of the Northrop T-38.

"This year and last year were quite tough, owing to the economy, but now one or two prospects are close to making a decision," says Choi.

These two requirements amount to 24 aircraft, with 12 aircraft deals possible in both countries. Choi would not reveal which countries were involved, however.

One of them could be Malaysia, where KAI had a stand at the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace exhibition in March. Kuala Lumpur needs a new advanced jet trainer light attack aircraft, but budget constraints are an issue.

The FA-50, or earlier trainer variants, have been sold to South Korea, the Philippines, Indonesia, and Thailand. Manila's aircraft were recently involved in combat operations against Islamic State terrorists in the country's southern city of Marawi.

"The Philippines' leadership is very happy with the aircraft," says Choi. "We expect that they will buy more."

Future developments for the jet include the incorporation of Northrop Grumman's Litening targeting pod, which will allow the aircraft to direct laser-guided weapons. Choi says there is no set date for this work, but indicated that is a priority.

Choi adds that KAI is in talks to sell its Surion utility helicopter in Asia. "There are very serious discussions with two Asian countries for Surion." This could lead to orders for 20 examples.

He adds that the issues related to the type's gearbox, which is related to that of the Airbus Helicopters H225, have largely been resolved, thus improving the type's prospects.

"As a late starter in the aerospace industry, KAI must show customers that we're fully capable of an aircraft's full support lifecycle," he says. "It's key for customers to trust us for the future."

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