Korea Aircraft Industries (KAI) has been awarded a $52 million contract to upgrade the Royal Thai Air Force’s (RTAF) fleet of T-50TH Golden Eagle trainer jets to include enhanced sensor and countermeasure capabilities. The deal was inked between Kim Jo-won, president and CEO of KAI, and Air Chief Marshal of the RTAF, Bhanupong Seyayongka, in Seoul, South Korea.
The scope of the upgrade and modification program will see the current and future Thai fleet equipped with a fire control radar (likely to be the Elta EL/M-2032 multi-mode system), radar warning receivers, and chaff/flare countermeasure dispenser systems. KAI says that the contract also includes through-program support, as well as training and spares, and the final delivery of the upgrade is due to take place by October 2021.
Indonesia also opted for a similar upgrade in a deal signed at the Indo Defence trade show in Jakarta in November 2018. However, Indonesia’s upgrade will also include its T-50 fleet being integrated with a gun capability, while the Thai fleet already carries this. AIN understands that the RTAF has also integrated and certified bombs on its T-50s.
Currently assigned to 401 Squadron of Wing 4, the Thai T-50TH is used as a lead-in trainer for the RTAF’s advanced fighter aircraft such as the Lockheed Martin F-16A/B MLU and Saab Gripen C/D, and the air force has taken delivery of an initial batch of four jets that was ordered in 2015. A second batch of eight aircraft was ordered in August 2017, and KAI said it will deliver these by 2020.
This newly announced upgrade will enable the T-50 to step up to the role currently carried out by the light attack/trainer Aero Vodochody L-39ZA Albatros that it is replacing.