The T-50 has been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. The F-50 single-seat multirole fighter variant was considered. The T-50B serves with the South Korean air force's aerobatics team. The TA-50 light attack variant has been ordered by Indonesia. The Philippines ordered 12 units of the FA-50 light fighter variant. The T-50A was marketed as a candidate for the United States Air Force's next-generation T-X trainer program but failed to win. Thailand ordered 12 units of the T-50 advanced trainer variant.
The T-50 program was originally intended to develop an indigenous trainer aircraft capable of supersonic flight, to train and prepare pilots for the KF-16 and F-15K, replacing trainers such as T-38 and A-37 that were then in service with the ROKAF. Prior South Korean aircraft programs include the turboprop KT-1 basic trainer produced by Daewoo Aerospace (now part of KAI), and license-manufactured KF-16. In general, the T-50 series of aircraft closely resembles the KF-16 in configuration.[clarification needed]
An ROKAF T-50, 2005
The mother program, code-named KTX-2, began in 1992, but the Ministry of Finance and Economy suspended KTX-2 in 1995 due to financial constraints. The basic design of the aircraft was set by 1999. The development of the aircraft was funded 70% by the South Korean government, 17% by KAI, and 13% by Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft was formally designated as the T-50 Golden Eagle in February 2000. The T-50A designation was reserved by the U.S. military to prevent it from being inadvertently assigned to another aircraft model. Final assembly of the first T-50 took place between 15 January and 14 September 2001. The first flight of the T-50 took place in August 2002, and initial operational assessment from 28 July to 14 August 2003.
KAI and Lockheed Martin are currently pursuing a joint marketing program for the T-50 internationally. The ROKAF placed a production contract for 25 T-50s in December 2003, with aircraft scheduled to be delivered between 2005 and 2009. Original T-50 aircraft are equipped with the AN/APG-67(v)4 radar from Lockheed Martin. The T-50 is equipped with a GE F404 engine with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) built under license by Samsung Techwin. Under the terms of the T-50/F404-102 co-production agreement, GE provides engine kits directly to Samsung Techwin who produces designated parts as well as performing final engine assembly and testing.
In December 2008, South Korea awarded a contract to KAI to convert four T-50s to FA-50 standard by 2012. In 2012, the ROKAF ordered 20 FA-50 fighters to be delivered by the end of 2014. The maiden flight of the FA-50 took place in 2011. 60 FA-50 aircraft are to be produced for the ROKAF from 2013 to 2016. KAI received a ₩1.1 trillion (equivalent to ₩1.16 trillion or US$1.02 billion in 2017) order for FA-50 fighter aircraft in May 2013.
In December 2015, KAI announced and revealed the new KAI-LM T-50 T-X upgrade intended to compete in the U.S. T-X program that will start testing in 2016. This variant features a dorsal hump for extra internal fuel and an aerial refuelling receptacle, large area display (LAD), and embedded ground training systems.
In October ADEX 2017, KAI unveiled the T-50A as a new variant based on the FA-50 multirole combat aircraft, including fifth generation cockpit, an aerial refuelling receptacle, cockpit multifunction display, dorsal hump for extra internal fuel, and an embedded training suite.
In January 2019, KAI has begun development on an improved FA-50 known as block 10 and block 20 upgrades. Block 10 is a software upgrade so it can use the Lockheed Martin AN/AAQ-33 Sniper targeting pod, while the block 20 is improvement capability to conduct beyond-visual-range air-to-air missions, carrying munitions such as the AIM-120 AMRAAM.
The T-50 Golden Eagle design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have some similarities. KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for T-50 development.
The trainer has seating for two pilots in a tandem arrangement. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots good visibility. The trainer has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against 4-lb objects impacting at 400 knots. The altitude limit is 14,600 metres (48,000 ft), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 litres (701 US gal), five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 litres (452 US gal) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks. T-50 trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The T-50 uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a FADEC system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI. The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. The more powerful GE F414 and Eurojet EJ200 engines have been suggested as the new engine for the T-50 family.
The T-50's central processing unit and its operating system are developed by MDS Technology. The T-50's NEOS avionics operating system is the first and only real-time operating system to be developed by an Asian company, and holds both DO-178B and IEEEPOSIX certification. Samsung Thales and LIG Nex1 are the main avionics and Electronic warfare equipment developers for T-50 and its variants. Other South Korean companies and defense institutes such as DoDAAM Systems, Aeromaster, Intellics, and Korea Institute of Defense Analysis are responsible for the aircraft's secondary avionics and embedded systems, including store management computers, avionics testing equipment, flight data recorders, portable maintenance aids, data analysis software, post-flight data processing system, aircraft structure and engine management software, and mission planning and support systems. The TA-50 version is equipped with an ELTAEL/M-2032 fire control radar.
The TA-50 version has a three-barrel cannon version of the M61 Vulcan mounted internally behind the cockpit, which fires linkless 20 mm ammunition. Wingtip rails can accommodate the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, and a variety of additional weapons can be mounted to underwing hardpoints. Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick missile, Hydra 70 and LOGIR rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20cluster bombs, and Mk-82, −83, and −84 general-purpose bombs.
The FA-50 can be externally fitted with Rafael's Sky Shield or LIG Nex1's ALQ-200K ECM pods, Sniper or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter's electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities. Other improved weapon systems include SPICE multifunctional guidance kits, Textron CBU-97/105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon with WCMD tail kits, JDAM, JDAM-ER for more comprehensive air-to-ground operations, and AIM-120 missiles for BVR air-to-air operations. FA-50 has provisions for, but does not yet integrate, Python and Derby missiles, also produced by Rafael, and other anti-ship missiles, stand-off weapons, and sensors to be domestically developed by Korea. The South Korean military is reviewing whether to arm the FA-50 with a smaller version of the KEPD 350 missile to give it a stand-off engagement capability of 400 km (250 mi).
In February 2018, European maker MBDA, in Singapore air show showcased an offer of its Meteor and ASRAAM medium and short-range air-to-air missiles available for integration for the KAI platforms FA-50 and future KF-X fighter jets.
In 2011, the first squadron with the TA-50, the T-50's light attack variant, became operational with the ROKAF. The ROKAF's Black Eagles aerobatic team operates the T-50B version. In 2014, the FA-50 was officially deployed by the ROKAF with President Park Geun-hye officially leading a ceremony during which a flight demonstration was held showing its capabilities. 20 FA-50s was assigned its own Air Force wing. 60 FA-50s were ordered by ROKAF. On 9 October 2014, an FA-50 successfully test fired an AGM-65 Maverick at a stationary target, a retired ship.
T-50i Indonesian Air Force version
Indonesia had been considering the T-50, along with four other aircraft to replace its BAE Systems Hawk Mk 53 trainer and OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft. In August 2010, Indonesia announced that T-50, Yak-130 and L-159 were the remaining candidates for its requirement for 16 advanced jet trainers. In May 2011, Indonesia signed a contract to order 16 T-50 aircraft for US$400 million. The aircraft is to feature weapons pylons and gun modules, enabling light attack capabilities. The Golden Eagles are to replace the Hawk Mk 53 in Indonesian Air Force service. Indonesia's version has been designated T-50i. Deliveries began in September 2013. The last pair of T-50i aircraft were delivered in January 2014.
Iraq was negotiating the acquisition of T-50 trainer jets, having first publicly expressed official interest during the Korea–Iraq summit in Seoul on 24 February 2009. In April 2010, Iraq reopened the jet lead-in fighter-trainer competition for 24 aircraft, in which TA-50 competed. In December 2013, it was announced that Iraq signed a contract for 24 aircraft of the FA-50 variant designated T-50IQ, plus additional equipment and pilot training over the next 20 years. Deliveries were to begin in April 2016, with all aircraft to be delivered over the next 12 months.[needs update]
Philippine Air Force FA-50PHs escorting the plane carrying President Aquino
The Philippine Air Force (PAF) chose 12 KAI TA-50 aircraft to fulfill its requirement for a light attack and lead-in fighter trainer aircraft. The Department of National Defense (DND) announced the selection of the type in August 2012. Funding for 12 aircraft was approved by Congress in September 2012.
In late January 2013, state media reported that the FA-50 variant, not the TA-50 variant as previously reported, was selected for the procurement. In October 2013, President Benigno Aquino III said that the DND was close to finalizing the FA-50 deal. On 19 October 2013, President Aquino and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with provisions for acquisitions.
On 13 February 2014, President Aquino approved the payment scheme for purchasing 12 lead-in fighter trainers with P18.9 billion ($415.7 million) budgeted. On 28 March 2014, the DND signed a contract for 12 FA-50 fighter aircraft worth P18.9 billion (US$421.12 million).
Deliveries began in November 2015 and all 12 aircraft were delivered by 31 May 2017. Plans were laid for 3 or 4 FA-50s to be fitted with capability for beyond visual range (BVR) intercept. In March 2015, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that the Philippines plans to order additional FA-50s, which is supported by the PAF Flight Plan 2028 that lists another 12 FA-50s planned for the future.
On 26 January 2017, two PAF FA-50PHs conducted a nighttime attack on terrorist hideouts in Butig, Lanao del Sur in Mindanao, the first combat sorties flown by these aircraft. In June 2017, FA-50s were deployed to conduct airstrikes against Maute terrorists entrenched in the city of Marawi starting in May 2017. On 12 July 2017, an FA-50 was involved in a friendly fire incident during the battle of Marawi, when a bomb landed approximately 250 meters off target, killing two Philippine soldiers and injuring 11 more. Investigation resulted in clearing the aircrew and aircraft of fault and the type was allowed to return to active service in August.
In June 2018, it was discussed that the PAF is reviewing the possibility of acquiring 12 more aircraft.
On 25 June 2020, in relation to its 73rd founding anniversary, the Philippine Air Force conducted a live fire exercise off the coast of Palawan. The exercise was the first live-firing of an AGM-65G2 Maverick air-to-ground missile fired from a PAF FA-50PH aircraft against a floating target, to demonstrate its anti-ship capabilities.
In September 2015, the Thai government chose a KAI T-50 variant, called the T-50TH, for its air force over the Chinese Hongdu L-15 to replace its aging L-39 Albatros trainers. The 4 T-50TH aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by March 2018. In July 2017, Thailand's government approved the procurement of 8 more aircraft with a contract signing expected later in the month. Deliveries began in January 2018.
Croatia: The FA-50 is also being offered to Croatia, which is deciding on a replacement for its aging fleet of MiG-21BIS aircraft. However, in October 2017, KAI did not bid as the FA-50 could not satisfy the Croatian fighter requirements. The Croatian Air Force then selected the French Rafale. Croatia needs to purchase lead in-trainer aircraft that KAI could bid on. Program is yet to be announced by Croatian Government.
Pakistan: Pakistan Air Force is considering purchase of the South Korean KAI T-50 Lead in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) to revamp its air force training program.
Spain: Spanish Air Force is interested in a cooperation agreement with South Korea for use of training aircraft, including the T-50. In November 2018, Spain was in talks with South Korea to swap 50 basic T-50 jet trainers for 4 to 5 Airbus A400M airlifters.
United Arab Emirates: United Arab Emirates Air Force is seeking 35–40 fighter-trainers. In February 2009, the UAE selected the M-346 over the T-50. In January 2010, the UAE reopened the trainer contest. In 2011, it was confirmed that the T-50 was still competing for the UAE purchase.
Argentina: Argentine Air Force evaluated the FA-50 as a potential new platform in 2016. The Argentine government is seeking to buy the FA-50 through repatriation in Korea. MSN reported the Argentine defense minister said that when the financial aid is secured a contract for the FA-50 with KAI can be signed by December 2017. As of July 2019, the Argentine Air Force, is set to buy FA-50s as an interim replacement for the retired Mirage 3, 5, and Dagger force. It is also to help replace the retiring A-4AR Fightinghawk fleet, as those aircraft are aging and becoming difficult to repair and maintain. If the deal is approved it will be a first step in modernizing and revitalizing the country's fighter fleet. KAI later notified the Argentine government that a sale would not be possible due the UK blocking it on the grounds of an arms embargo — the aircraft features various British components, including Martin-Baker ejection seats.
Taiwan: Republic of China Air Force is looking to replace its current fleet of AT-3 jet trainers and F-5 LIFT planes with 66 advanced trainers, the ROC Air Force released a request for information (RFI) and two companies have responded including Lockheed Martin for the T-50 and Alenia Aermacchi's M-346 responded to the request. The planes are expected to be license produced in Taiwan with a local partner firm, and the overall estimated contract value is 69 billion New Taiwan dollars (US$2.2 billion). However, Taiwan decided to build 66 AIDC T-5 Brave Eagle supersonic trainers based on Taiwan's existing AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo fighters for NT$68.6 billion instead of selecting the T-50 or M-346.
United States: The T-50 was one of the contenders for the U.S. Air Force's T-X program, with an opportunity to export 300 to 1,000 aircraft. In September 2018 the U.S. Air Force selected Boeing's T-7 trainer. In January 2020, the U.S. Air Force posted a notice stating that it would lease four to eight T-50A trainers from Hillwood Aviation due to delays in manufacturing the T-7A. In August 2020 the acquisition was delayed due to the COVID-19 pandemic; in October it was announced that the plan had been further delayed .
Uzbekistan: In October 2015, the U.S. refused to approve the sale of the KAI T-50 advance trainer to Uzbekistan. The T-50 uses a US-made engine, the F404, which requires a US export license to re-export to another country along the T-50. However, due to political considerations related to Uzbekistan, US refused to approve this.
Indonesian Air Force – 16 T-50i trainer aircraft were delivered by January 2014. These were fitted with radars and cannons in 2018. 14 aircraft are in service as of August 2020. In July 2021, Indonesia signed a contract for a further six planes at a cost of US$240 million with delivery by October 2024.
On 15 November 2012, a South Korean air force pilot from the service's Black Eagles aerobatic display team was killed when his KAI T-50B trainer crashed in a mountainside in the area of Hoengsong, about 48 nm (90 km) east of Seoul, due to human error during a maintenance operation.
On 6 February 2018, a South Korean aerobatic team's plane flipped over after one of its tires burst on takeoff at Changi Airport. It was taking off in preparation for a display at the Singapore Airshow.
On August 10, 2020, a 38-year-old Indonesian Air Force T-50i pilot died from injuries sustained during a training accident at the Iswahyudi Air Force Base.
On August 10, 2021, a part from T-50i fell down during flight in eastern Java, Indonesia. Pilots and the plane were safe.
FA-50 Fighting Eagle
FA-50 landing for ROKAF's first delivery
TA-50 Lead in Fighter Trainer at KAI
T-50 Golden Eagles lining up
Data from Korea Aerospace, Lockheed Martin
Length: 13.144 m (43 ft 1 in)
Wingspan: 9.45 m (31 ft 0 in) with wingtip missiles
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