South Korea To Develop Trainer Into Light Fighter / South Korea’s T-50 Spreads Its Wings
South Korea to Develop Trainer Into Light Fighter / South Korea’s T-50 Spreads Its Wings
(NSI News Source Info) SEOUL - January 2, 2009: South Korea's arms procurement agency has signed a contract with a local aircraft manufacturer to develop an indigenous trainer into a light attack jet by 2012, agency officials said Dec. 31.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed the deal with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) on Dec. 26 to upgrade and modify the aircraft maker's T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet into a light combat aircraft that will replace the South Korean Air Force's aging, lower-class fighters, they said. Under the deal, valued at about 400 billion won ($305 million), KAI will develop four prototypes of the T-50 trainer into advanced light attack jets by 2012; the new jet will be designated the FA-50. A separate deal on production will be sealed after that, according to DAPA and KAI officials.
Developed in 2006, the $21 million Mach 1.4 T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and the world's only high-performance supersonic trainer in production. KAI is the prime contractor and Lockheed Martin is the principal subcontractor, assisting with development and international marketing.
With the modifications, the FA-50 will have advanced tactical data link systems and precision missile guidance equipment, the officials said.
For example, the jet will be outfitted with the Wind Corrected Munitions Dispenser (WCMD) kit, incorporating an internal navigation system and flip-out control fins to guide bombs. The WCMD corrects launch errors, determines atmospheric conditions and computes optimum flight paths and cluster bomb release points.
Armaments will include AGM-65 Maverick air-to-surface missiles and Joint Direct Attack Munition bombs.
A DAPA source said the agency initially wants to buy about 60 FA-50s to start service in 2013, the same year mass production for export will likely begin.
The Air Force wants to introduce up to 150 FA-50s to replace the A-37 attack aircraft and F-4/F-5 fighters currently serving as a low-tier backup to its higher-class KF-16 and F-15K fighters, the source said.
According to DAPA officials, the FA-50 will be equipped with the EL/M-2032 radar from Israel's Elta Systems, which is credited with a look-up tracking range of 65 to 100 kilometers.
The FA-50 program had been stalled for years over the selection of a radar system. DAPA originally wanted to equip the plane with the lightweight Vixen-500E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar, developed by U.K. firm Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems, and to launch the project last August. But co-developer Lockheed Martin opposed the move, citing protection of its technology, DAPA Commissioner Yang Chi-kyu told a National Assembly session Sept. 25.
"In general, aircraft source code cannot be transferred to other nations," Yang said. "To install the U.K. equipment on the FA-50, the aircraft's source code would have had to be shared with the company concerned, which was impossible."
Sources said Lockheed had been pushing Seoul to select its AN/APG-67(V)4 radar. Lockheed and the U.S. government also rejected the possible selection of the AESA radar, as the T-50 development contract stipulates that the T-50's capabilities should be no better than those of the KF-16 fighter. But the Vixen-500E is believed to be better than the KF-16's AN/APG-68 pulse-Doppler radar, they said.
The contract also bans South Korea from integrating T-50 variants with non-U.S. technology that the U.S. doesn't have, and U.S. officials discouraged the idea of putting European equipment into the aircraft for export, they said.
Lockheed agreed on the installation of the Israeli radar because the system is to be integrated by ITT Defense of the U.S.