KAI Unveils T-X Contender, Pursues T-50 Exports

 - December 18, 2015, 7:37 AM
The Korean T-50 jet trainer design shows modifications for the forthcoming T-X competition in the U.S. (photo: KAI)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) unveiled the version of its T-50 jet trainer series that its partner Lockheed Martin will propose for the U.S. Air Force T-X competition. In a ceremony at KAI’s Sacheon facility that was fronted by Korean president Park Guen-Hye, the company revealed the actual development aircraft. Compared with a standard T-50, it has a dorsal extension from the rear cockpit to the tail, possibly containing an inflight refueling receptacle and plumbing. The other main change is likely to be a single, large-screen cockpit display, replacing the five smaller screens.

Lockheed Martin contributed expertise and 13 percent of development costs for the T-50, which was completed in 2006 at a cost of $2.1 billion. Since then, KAI has delivered 50 "basic" T-50 trainers to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), followed by 10 T-50Bs for the ROKAF’s Black Eagles aerobatic team. It then produced 22 TA-50s modified for lead-in-fighter training by the addition of an Elta EL/M-2031 radar and a 20mm gun. The TA-50 has been further developed into the FA-50 ground-attack fighter version, and KAI is currently delivering 60 of these to the ROKAF. 

Meanwhile, KAI is achieving export success. The Indonesian air force  acquired 16 T-50s for advanced jet training. Last month, KAI delivered the first two of 12 FA-50s ordered by the Philippine air force in a $240 million inter-government deal. Deliveries of 24 FA-50s to Iraq are due to start next year. In September, Thailand ordered four T-50s worth $110 million to begin replacing the air force’s L-39 Albatros jet trainer fleet. But the U.S. retains a veto on overseas sales because of the avionics and engine, a license-built GE F404. The Korea Times recently reported that the U.S. had denied permission for the export of 12 T-50s to Uzbekistan.