May 25, 2013: Strategy Page
South Korea has ordered another 40 of the locally made FA-50 fighter-bombers for $25.5 million each. Two years ago the South Korean Air Force ordered the first twenty (for $30 million each), and the first of these is to arrive in three months with the last of that first order arriving within three years.
The FA-50 will be equipped with South Korean, American, and Israeli electronics. The single engine, single seat aircraft is intended to eventually replace South Korea's aging fleet of 150 F-5 fighters. But first, the initial FA-50s will have to show what they can do in active service. That process will begin later this year.
The FA-50 is the combat version of the South Korean designed and manufactured T-50 jet trainer. This aircraft was developed over the last decade, at a cost of over two billion dollars. The first test flight of the T-50 took place in 2002. The 18 ton aircraft is actually a light fighter and can fly at supersonic speeds. The T-50 is an “advanced trainer” meant to prepare trainee pilots with the skills needed to handle jet fighters. With some added equipment (radars and fire control), the T-50 becomes the FA-50, a combat aircraft. This version carries a 20mm auto-cannon and up to 4.5 tons of smart bombs and missiles. The T-50 can stay in the air about four hours per sortie and has a service life of 8,000 hours in the air.
At $20 million each, the T-50 is one of the more competitive jet trainers on the market. About 100-150 trainers are bought each year by the world's air forces. But it is a tough market, and so far the only export customer for the T-50 has been 16 sold to Indonesia. Nearly a hundred T-50 type aircraft have been produced or are on order. In addition to the FA-50 variant, there is a light bomber variant (the TA-50) that costs $25 million each.