Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI, 한국항공우주산업) T-15 Golden Eagle in flight

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI, 한국항공우주산업) T-15 Golden Eagle in flight

South Korea’s advanced supersonic training aircraft, the Korea Air Industries’T-50 Golden Eagle, is increasing its profile internationally in 2012 after sitting near-idle on the global market since its introduction in 2005.

While countries have been interested in the T-50 since its debut, it wasn’t until 2011 that the ROK cemented an export deal with Indonesia for 16 of the training aircraft[1], a sale that helped to double South Korean international arms exports from the previous year[2].

The KAI T-50 is a two-pilot training aircraft reminiscent in design characteristics to a US F-16 fighter aircraft. It has a top speed of around mach 1.5, a flight ceiling of 55,000ft, and a range of nearly 1,150 miles. Its armament consists of one 20mm cannon and seven total hard points, for an assorted array of rockets, missiles, and bombs[3].

As 2012 moves forward, the T-50 is seeing increased attention abroad, with the ROK pushing hard to increase global interest in the aircraft. This week alone sees the trainer mentioned in three entirely different global markets.

Via Iraq:

BAGHDAD / Aswat al-Iraq: Premier Nouri al-Maliki called on South Korea to provide Iraq with military training planes, as well cooperation in other armaments.

During his meeting with South Korean State Minister for Military Industries Nu D Lee, Maliki called for activation of all contracts signed with the Korean side, in addition to supporting projects agreed upon.

In an official statement, it noted the meeting was attended by Acting Defense Minister Saadoun al-Dilaimi.

The statement added the South Korean minister expressed the readiness of his country to develop relations with Iraq in all fields, particularly in armament fields, as well as implementing the agreements reached to.


Via the European Union (Portugal):

SEOUL, Feb. 11 (Yonhap) — South Korea is seeking to build a pilot training center in Portugal that will be equipped with the Korean Aerospace Industries’ T-50 supersonic military jet trainer, a government source said Saturday.

The defense ministry source, who declined to be identified, said Portugal was tapped as the primary negotiation partner for the International Military Flight Training Center Consortium (IMFACC) last year. He said final negotiations are underway to sort out details that may lead to a memorandum of understanding being reached as early as next month.

The IMFACC plan calls for South Korea to inject 300 billion won (US$267 million) over 30 years to set up a jet pilot training facility. The center will be manned by South Korean military instructors who will be tasked with training foreign pilots for a fee on the T-50 Golden Eagle.

If a IMFACC facility is built, South Korea can help foreign countries train pilots on a very advanced jet trainer at affordable costs, and could also promote the T-50 in the Europe.

Via Israel:

TEL AVIV, Israel, Feb. 10 (UPI) — Seoul has made a last-ditch attempt to secure for Korea Aerospace Industries a $1 billion contract to supply the Israeli air force with advanced training aircraft after a fiercely fought contest with Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi.

The Jerusalem Post reports that South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to Israeli President Shimon Peres praising the defense cooperation between the two countries “and referred to the trainer competition as an example of how to strengthen those ties.”

Israeli Defense Ministry officials said this week that the final decision was expected to be announced by the end of February after the ministry’s procurement department submits its recommendation to Director General Udi Shani. He will then consult with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.

With Poland, the Philippines, the UAE, Singapore, and even the United States also looking to upgrade their aging training aircraft[3], South Korea’s T-50 is receiving a lot of interest.

If Israel selects the training aircraft, it would put South Korea halfway to their three billion dollar (US) defense export goal for 2012 with ten months still remaining in the year. It’s also likely (though this author’s conjecture) that President Lee had some discussion with UAE leaders during his visit to Abu Dhabi this past week regarding the potential selection of the T-50 in the UAE’s current training aircraft contract competition.

If even a fifth of these developing T-50 deals succeed, it will be a good year for the T-50 trainer and ROK defense exports. With South Korea pushing hard on all fronts to get the T-50 into the global market, this author wouldn’t be surprised to see about half of these deals pan out.

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Craig was born & raised in the United States, having recently returned there after over five years in Asia. He is currently pursuing further education in the realms of East Asian Studies and Politics. Craig is an avid fan of the political, economic, and military machinations occurring throughout the Asian continent and how those turning gears affect the rest of the world. He's currently covering both North and South Korea for Asia Security Watch, enjoying shedding light on to this far-too-often ignored slice of Asia.
Craig Scanlan has 82 post(s) on Asia Security Watch