By Bradley Perrett
Iraq has ordered 24 light attack fighters based on the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 supersonic trainer, with deliveries due to be completed by 2017. The order, including training, is valued at $1.1 billion, but KAI says supporting the aircraft over 20 years, also contracted, will take total revenue beyond $2 billion.
Though Iraq’s aircraft are designated T-50IQ, an industry official says the aircraft will be built to the design of the FA-50 light attack variant of the T-50 family. Powered by a single General Electric F404 engine, the T-50 is a contender for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer requirement.
KAI’s T-50 program has strengthened considerably this year after averaging a production rate of only about one a month since deliveries began in 2005. The production rate is now two a month, not far below capacity of 2.5 a month, KAI says. While the exact state of orders and deliveries is unknown, it is clear that the program has sufficient orders to maintain that monthly rate of two supersonic jets until 2017. Iraq’s first T-50IQ is due to be delivered in April 2016 and the last in April 2017.
This is the type’s second order for 2013. In May the South Korean defense ministry ordered about 40 FA-50s due for delivery to the South Korean air force by the end of 2016. Meanwhile, KAI this year began deliveries of a first batch of 20 FA-50s ordered for the South Korean air force in 2012 and 16 TA-50s that Indonesia ordered in 2011.
In October South Korea confirmed that the Philippines had chosen the FA-50 for a requirement for 12 aircraft, but that country has not placed an order. KAI says it is also pursuing possible orders from Chile and Botswana.
The BAE Systems Hawk was a contender for the Iraq order. KAI says it also beat competition from the Yakovlev Yak-130 and Aero L-159.
KAI has not said how many FA-50s were covered by the South Korean defense ministry’s May order. An industry source said then that it was “about 40.” The figure is likely to be exactly 40, since the air force likes to order fighters in multiples of 20.
Samsung Techwin assembles and partly makes F404 engines for the T-50 family. The airframe, developed with much help from Lockheed Martin, is based on the aerodynamics of the F-16, which Iraq has also ordered.http://www.aviationweek.com/Article.aspx?id=/article-xml/asd_12_13_2013_p01-01-646475.xml