With the New Year barely underway, South Korea is once again demonstrating a determination to build a formidable military force capable of dealing with potential enemies. The government has signed a $600 million deal with Korea Aerospace Industries (KIA) for 20 FA-50 fighter/attack aircraft based on the highly regarded T-50 advanced jet trainer.
KAI is reporting that the aircraft will be delivered between 2013 and 2014. The FA-50 is a lightweight fighter/attack aircraft incorporating the most advanced technology available in the T-50 Golden Eagle family of aircraft.
KAI also believes that South Korea may increase the order to as many as 60 aircraft for use as replacements for the aging 150 Northrop F-5 aircraft currently being operated.
The FA-50 aircraft ordered are expected to be equipped with the Link 16 tactical link, Elta Systems EL/M-2032 pulse Doppler radar, radar warning systems and a night vision imagery system. Northrop Grumman and Raytheon previously selected the FA-50 as a prime candidate for being outfitted with the same version of active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar slated for use in a United States Air Force F-16 upgrade.
The FA-50 is built to carry a weapon’s payload of 9,920 pounds that includes Boeing’s Joint Direct Attack Munitions and Textron’s CBU-97 Sensor Fused Weapon. In addition, the FA-50 is also fitted with a 20mm cannon and is configured to carry air-to-air missiles.
KAI has also included in the Golden Eagle family, along with the T-50 and the FA-50, a T-50B aerobatic aircraft and an armed TA-50. All versions of the Golden Eagle family feature a single General Electric F404 engine.
South Korea is expected to issue a call for bids for its F-X III project in February to select a replacement for its F-4 Phantom jets. The candidates competing for this lucrative contract include the Boeing F-15 Silent Eagle, Lockheed Martin F-35, Sukhoi PAK FA, and the Eurofighter Typhoon.