KAI’s Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer expands regional footprint

KAI's T50i Indonesian export version
KAI's T50i Indonesian export version. (KAI)

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is poised to expand the footprint of its T-50 Golden Eagle advance jet trainer after signing a US$240 million agreement with the Indonesian Ministry of Defence (MoD) to provide additional six T-50i Golden Eagle for its lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) programme.

The company announced on 20 July that the deal will run from 16 December to 30 October 2024 and will include associated logistics support. However, it is understood that the contract will only be in force once the company receives advanced payment.

The T-50 Golden Eagle is a single-engine, supersonic aircraft developed by KAI for the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) with technical assistance from Lockheed Martin, with an eye on emerging international requirements for affordable LIFT and light-attack aircraft.

KAI previously supplied the Indonesian Air Force with 16 T-50i training jets in May 2011 worth around US$400 million and was also contracted in November 2018 to provide radar and machine gun systems – likely the Elta EL/M-2032 radar and General Dynamics’ M197 20 mm cannon supplied to other international T-50 operators of the type – alongside the supply of three KT-1B Woong-Bee basic turboprop trainers in a deal worth around US$89 million.

However, one of the aircraft was destroyed in a crash during an aerial display in December 2015 while another skidded off the runway while taking off for a training mission in August 2020and suffered catastrophic damage.

Meanwhile, the MoD has begun to seek foreign loans to fund the procurement of the six additional aircraft. According to local media reports, initial authorisation has been approved by the Ministry of Finance following discussions with the MoD and Ministry of National Development Planning.

It is believed that Jakarta will also draw from its 2022 defence budget to make down payment for the new aircraft, with the remainder to be paid using the foreign loan.

Elsewhere, Thailand is also reportedly acquired another two more T-50TH advanced jet trainers to increase its lead-in jet trainer fleet to 14. The move is expected to enable the Royal Thai Air Force to gradually phase out its Czech-made Aero Vodochody L-39ZA Albatross training aircraft fleet.

Besides Indonesia and Thailand, the Philippine Air Force is also another operator of the type having acquired the 12 FA-50PH aircraft.

by Jr Ng