Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) could offer Israeli companies work on variants of the Surion helicopter as part of its campaign to sell Tel Aviv advanced jet trainers, according to an industry source familiar with the Israeli contest.

KAI is pitching an unarmed variant of the F/A-50 for the 30-aircraft requirement. The F/A-50 is the most advanced iteration of the T-50 Golden Eagle. It will be inducted into Republic of Korea Air Force service with a 20mm cannon, the ability to carry guided munitions, and a combat radar. The F/A-50 variant being offered to Israel will have superior avionics to the original T-50 trainer.

The competition sees KAI pitted against its familiar rival, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346. The Italian aircraft defeated the T-50 in trainer competitions in Singapore and the United Arab Emirates, although there is uncertainty about whether the UAE will actually buy the aircraft.

This not the first time Israeli co-operation has been mooted in association with the Surion. At October's Seoul air show programme partners KAI and Eurocopter proposed a Korea naval helicopter (KNH) based on the co-developed Surion. They said Israel's Elbit Systems would be involved in the KNH.

The proposed naval variant would perform roles such as anti-submarine warfare, anti-surface warfare and maritime surveillance. A KAI representative at the show said the development of the KNH is contingent on orders from South Korea's navy, and could perhaps be pitched globally as a Westland Sea King replacement.

KAI is also considering an armed variant of the Surion.



Digital mock-up of what the naval version of the Surion


Tel Aviv issued a request for information for its trainer requirement in early 2010. Industry observers expect a request for proposal (RFP) in December 2011 or early 2012, although Israel's budget situation could delay this.

Despite the absence of an RFP, industry sources say the Italian government has already approached Israel with industrial proposals related to the competition.

Deliveries of the trainer are to start in 2014. A basic requirement in the competition is that the aircraft be produced by the TOR joint venture between Elbit and Israel Aerospace Industries.

Source: Flight International