|T-50 Golden Eagle|
|A Republic of Korea Air Force FA-50 carrying a captive training missile.|
|Role||T-50: Advanced jet trainer |
TA-50: Lead-in fighter trainer
FA-50: Light combat aircraft
|National origin||South Korea|
|Manufacturer||Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) |
|First flight||20 August 2002|
|Introduction||22 February 2005|
|Primary users||Republic of Korea Air Force|
Iraqi Air Force
Indonesian Air Force
Philippine Air Force
|Number built||200 (all models)|
The KAI T-50 Golden Eagle (골든이글) is a family of South Korean supersonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with Lockheed Martin. The T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. Development began in the late 1990s, and its maiden flight occurred in 2002. The aircraft entered active service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) in 2005.
The T-50 has been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. A F-50 single-seat multirole fighter variant was considered before being cancelled. The T-50B serves with the South Korean air force's aerobatics team.
The T-50 has been ordered by a number of countries and entered into service in some of them. Iraq ordered 24 planes in a T-50IQ variant in 2013, and received them in 2016. The TA-50 light attack variant have also been ordered by Indonesia in 2011, with 16 planes entering Indonesian service by 2014; additional 6 were ordered in 2021. The Philippines ordered 12 units of the FA-50 light fighter variant in 2014, delivered over the next few years, and the country is considering ordering another batch of 12 planes. Thailand ordered 12 units of the T-50 advanced trainer variant (T-50TH) starting in 2015. In 2022 Poland ordered 48 FA-50s.
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]
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.[unreliable source?] 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.
The program has expanded beyond a trainer concept to include the TA-50 light attack aircraft and the FA-50 light combat aircraft. The TA-50 variant is a more heavily armed version of the T-50 trainer, intended for lead-in fighter training and light attack roles. It is equipped with the Elta EL/M-2032 fire control radar. The TA-50 is designed to operate as a full-fledged combat platform for precision-guided weapons, air-to-air missiles, and air-to-ground missiles. The TA-50 can mount additional utility pods for reconnaissance, targeting assistance, and electronic warfare. Reconnaissance and electronic warfare variants are also being developed, designated as RA-50 and EA-50.
The FA-50 is the most advanced version of the T-50, possessing more internal fuel capacity, enhanced avionics, a longer radome and a tactical datalink. It is equipped with a modified Israeli EL/M-2032 pulse-Doppler radar with Korean-specific modifications by LIG Nex1. The engine could be either Eurojet EJ200 or General Electric F414 with thrust of 89 to 98 kN (20,000 to 22,000 lbf), roughly 12–25% higher than the F404's thrust; and are offered to prospective customers for the T-50. The radar of the FA-50 has a range two-thirds greater than the TA-50's radar. The EL/M-2032 was initially chosen over Lockheed Martin's preferred AN/APG-67(V)4 and SELEX Vixen 500E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars. Other AESA radars such as Raytheon's AN/APG-79 and Northrop Grumman's AN/APG-83 are options for future production, and may be shared with the radar chosen for USAF and ROKAF F-16 fighters. Samsung Thales is also independently developing a domestic multi-mode AESA radar for the FA-50.
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 IEEE POSIX 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 Elta EL/M-2032 fire control radar.
The T-50 is equipped with a Honeywell H-764G embedded global positioning/inertial navigation system and HG9550 radar altimeter. The aircraft is the first trainer to feature triple-redundant digital fly-by-wire controls. The cockpit panels, switches, and joysticks are produced by South Korea's FirsTec and Sungjin Techwin, head-up display by DoDaaM Systems, and multi-function display by Samsung Thales. Other South Korean subcontractors such as Elemech, Dawin Friction, and Withus cooperate in T-50 components production. Hanwha supplies the mechanical parts for the flight control system, and WIA supplies the undercarriage.
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-20 cluster 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 Taurus 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.
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 trainer 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.
In July 2021, KAI has confirmed that it has been awarded a contract to supply another batch of T-50s to the Indonesia. The contract is said to be worth US$240 million and includes 6 T-50s along with support and logistics package for aircraft operations.
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. The first batch of aircraft was delivered in March 2017 with the second batch arriving in May 2018. [needs update] However, the aircraft were not flown until June 2022, following the negotiation of a maintenance, logistics and training contract with KAI in November 2021.
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 2 February 2019, two PAF FA-50s dropped eight 250-pound bombs on a base of the ISIS-linked Bangsamoro Islamic Freedom Fighters (BIFF) in response to a bomb attack on the Our Lady of Mount Carmel Cathedral in Barangay Walled City, Jolo, Sulu.
On 25 June 2020, in relation to its 73rd founding anniversary, the PAF 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.
On 25 December 2020 one day before the 52nd anniversary of the Communist Party of the Philippines, a PAF FA-50 dropped six bombs, including a GPS-guided bomb, that resulted in the deaths of three New People's Army rebels at their base camp in Daguma Mountain Range in Sultan Kudarat province.
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 were 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.
On 22 July 2022, Poland's Defense Minister Mariusz Blaszczak said in a media interview that the country is buying 48 FA-50 fighters. On 28 July, KAI officially signed the deal for 12 FA-50 Block 10 and 36 FA-50PL Block 20 with the Polish government. FA-50 deliveries are to start in 2023. Blaszczak said KAI's ability to deliver the aircraft quickly was the decisive factor in it being chosen. As a result of the 2022 Russian invasion of Ukraine, the Polish Air Force desired urgently to replace their remaining MiG-29 fighter and Su-22 attack aircraft and the U.S. was unable to supply additional F-16s in such a short timeframe. Along with the fighter deal, KAI is expected to help establish a servicing center for them in Poland in cooperation with Polish defense industries by 2026.
South Korea also plans to offer the FA-50 to Colombia and Peru. Local media reported that the FA-50 could be a more affordable option than the Saab Gripen for the Botswana Defence Force Air Wing, citing Korean Aerospace Industries, signaling potential interest by the country.
Data from Korea Aerospace, Lockheed Martin
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