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PARIS: KAI FA-50 makes progress as T-X beckons

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) says its FA-50 light fighter aircraft should obtain final operational clearance in the South Korean air force in late 2016.

The South Korean air force already has one operational squadron of the type with 20 aircraft. By the end of 2015 the second squadron should be set up, says Sang Choi, vice president & general manager in the company’s international marketing department.

The FA-50 is an armed variant of the T-50 advanced jet trainer, which KAI jointly developed with Lockheed Martin. Other variants include the TA-50, a lightly armed variant of the original aircraft, and the T-50B, which is optimised as a performance aircraft. The T-50B is operational with South Korea’s display team, the Black Eagles.

KAI has never disclosed the size of the South Korean FA-50 order, but Seoul will probably end up taking about 60-100 examples to replace 150 obsolescent Northrop F-5s.

Choi says that the Philippines, which ordered 12 FA-50s in 2014, will start receiving its aircraft in late 2015. Iraq, which ordered 24 examples designated as the T-50IQ in late 2013, will also receive its first 12 examples in early 2016.

He adds that Indonesia has already received all 16 of its T/A-50s, and that the integration of the type into the country’s air force is going well.

“We’re working very closely with them and things are going smoothly,” he says.

Choi also remains confident of the T-50’s chances in the future USAF competition to replace the venerable Northrop T-38, where it is likely to face competition from three aircraft, two of which are clean sheet designs.

A General Dynamics/Alenia Aermacchi team will offer the T-100, a modified M-346. Boeing has teamed with Saab and Northrop Grumman’s Scaled Composites unit will both develop new aircraft.

“The T-50 is a proven aircraft that is in production, while a new aircraft will lead to a longer lead time and higher costs,” says Choi.

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