Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) are hoping to launch the A-50 light attack version of the T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer (AJT) and lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) on the back of a possible South Korean air force order for 22. This comes ahead of an anticipated authorisation this August to begin production of an initial batch of25 tandem-seat trainers.

South Korea is planning to order 94 T-50s for delivery between 2006 and 2011, due to comprise 50 AJTs and 44 LIFTs. The air force is considering modifying this and completing the final 22 as A-50s, which would retain the same two-seat configuration as the trainer but have enhanced weapons and self- defence capabilities.

The A-50, like the LIFT, would be equipped with the Lockheed Martin APG-67 multimode radar, a 20mmgun and stores management system. The dedicated light combat version in addition would feature a radar warning receiver, chaff dispensers and electronic countermeasures, says Rich Lomox, Lockheed Martin T-50/A-50 customisation manager. KAI is also studying a single-seat F-50 variant (Flight International, 10-16 September 2002).

Meanwhile, talks are continuing between Lockheed Martin and KAI on production workshare for the T-50/A-50. Lockheed Martin is seeking to produce the wing and some avionics, and continues to provide technical assistance. For the manufacturing phase, however, it has dropped responsibility for flight controls.

Flight testing of the LIFT version is due to begin in August with the next pair of prototypes both now in ground test. Aircraft AB1 will be used for avionics and gun testing, while AB2 will serve as a radar and weapons separation test platform. The first LIFT aircraft is due to be delivered in 2007-8 as part of a follow-on order for 69 T-50s.

Source: Flight International