South Korea rolls out first T-50
1 November 2001
The first T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft, an advanced, supersonic trainer being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with the assistance of Lockheed Martin, was rolled out in a ceremony in Korea on October 31. The T-50 is a major stepping stone in South Korea's development as an aircraft manufacturing country and is aimed at capturing a third of the world's supersonic trainer market over the next thirty years.
''The T-50 is the first supersonic jet aircraft developed by our rapidly growing aerospace industry,'' said President Kim, Dae-jung who served as the principal speaker at the unveiling ceremony. ''This aircraft is expected to not only serve the advanced training needs of the Korean Air Force, but also a number of other major air forces around the world. We fully expect to be an exporter of advanced aerospace products.''
KAI is the prime contractor for the T-50 with overall design responsibility with Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company as the principal subcontractor responsible for general technical consulting, the wing, avionics and the electronic flight control system. Assembly of the first T-50 was completed in mid-September, 100 days ahead of the original schedule. Commercial production is expected to begin in 2003, with the first production T-50 expected in late 2005.
''The T- 50 is expected to be the mainstay of our production operations at KAI for the next 10 years or more,'' said Kil, Hyoung-Bo, president of KAI and master of ceremonies at the rollout.
The Korean Air Force (ROKAF) intends to acquire 94 T-50 advanced trainers and the derivative A-50 fighter lead-in trainer/light combat aircraft. The trainers will be used by ROKAF to prepare its pilots to fly the next generation fighter for which the South Korean Government is currently conducting a tender. The competition for the $3.2 billion contract is between Dassault's Rafale; Boeing's F-15K, the Eurofighter team's Typhoon 200, and the Russian Su-32. However, the recent failure of Boeing, who were favourites to secure the contract, to win the JSF production rights in the US may have prompted the Korean's to reassess the relative merits of the bids and delay the programme.
The supersonic T-50 will have the manoeuvrability, endurance and systems to prepare future pilots to fly current and next-generation fighters like advanced F-16s, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. It will replace ROKAF's current trainers the T-37 and T-38. The T-50 is currently the only craft of its type under development or production and can reach 1.4 mach. The Government will now explore exportation possibilities with nations in Europe and the Middle East favoured targets.
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