South Korea’s T-50
By Jung Sung-ki
A delegation of three Israeli Air Force (IAF) officers arrived in South Korea Sunday to examine the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet, a candidate to replace the service's veteran Skyhawk jets, officials of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), said Monday.
During their five-day stay, the delegates will test-fly the advanced trainer at the KAI headquarters in Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province, and visit an air force base in Gwangju to check a ground-based flight training system, the officials said.
KAI is the main developer of the T-50.
Earlier, Isareli newspaper Ha'aretz reported that Israel was positively considering purchasing the T-50, jointly built with Lockheed Martin of the United States. The IAF is seeking to buy 20 to 30 light attack jets to be used by pilot school cadets in advanced stages of combat pilot training, according to the report.
The Skyhawk arrived in Israel in 1968, marking the beginning of the American era for IAF, which had used mostly French jets before, the report said.
Israel is now considering purchasing a fighter jet not made locally or in the United States for the first time in 40 years, it added.
Other candidates include the T-45, an U.S. model for the British Hawk training aircraft, and the M-346 built by the Italian firm Alenia Aermacchi, according to the report. The T-50 appears to be in the lead, as its performance matches the IAF's main combat aircraft, especially the F-16s, the report said.
The T-50 took its maiden flight in 2002. The single-engine jet, featuring digital flight controls and a modern, ground-based training system, is designed to have the maneuverability, endurance and systems to prepare pilots to fly existing and next-generation fighters, such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II.
The $25-million jet has a top speed of Mach 1.4 and an operational range of 1,851 kilometers.
The T-50 also is competing with the M-346 for a trainer jet acquisition deal in Singapore.
Other potential customers include the United States, Poland, Iraq and Greece.