Korea Exports 24 Attack Jets to Iraq

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) signed a $1.1 billion (1.1 trillion won) contract to sell 24 FA-50 light attack aircraft to Iraq, Thursday, the most lucrative defense export deal by local players.

In Baghdad, KAI CEO Ha Sung-yong and Iraqi Prime Minster Nouri al-Maliki signed the deal.

The Korean defense contractor is set to deliver the jets between October 2015 and October 2016.

In addition, the two sides are on the verge of reaching another agreement including pilot training and logistical support with an estimated value of $1 billion.

“The contract is the biggest achievement in the nation’s aerospace exports,” Ha said.

“Through the deal, we discovered the aircraft’s competitiveness in the international market and potential as an export.”

With the deal, KAI has put the first Middle East country on its customer list.

It has sold 16 T-50 supersonic trainers to Indonesia, 40 KT-1 basic trainers to Turkey and 20 KT-1s to Peru.

KAI believes the Iraq contract will contribute to the Sacheon, South Gyeongsang Province-based company establishing itself as a competitive presence in the market for lower priced fighters.

“Other than Africa, KAI has built its export footholds in each continent,” a KAI official said.

“There is growing interest in the T-50 family, as the current aircraft in use get older and there are few options to replace them.”

In the competition, the KAI product beat BAE Systems’ Hawk-128, Russian Yakovlev’s Yak-130 and Czech aircraft producer Aero Vodochody’s L-159, according to the Korean firm.

With Iraq being scheduled to import 36 F-16s from next year, the Korean light attack plane was seen as the best option to bridge the air power vacuum, while nurturing pilots.

The FA-50 was developed in Korea as a possible replacement for the Air Force’s F-5E/F when the aging fighters are retired.
KAI is set to try to continue the winning vibe in its sales pitch for other countries including the Philippines, Botswana and eventually, the United States.

In the U.S. Air Force’s trainer competition, aimed at replacing its fleet of T-38s, the U.S. side plans to purchase 350 new aircraft worth billions of dollars.

“When it comes to exports to the Philippines, we were closing in on a deal, but the recent earthquake and typhoon have pushed it back to next year,” KAI said.

“We plan to launch a full-scale campaign in the U.S. as well.”

The FA-50, which was first unveiled in January 2006, is a light combat version of the T-50 supersonic trainer that was co-developed with Lockheed Martin.

The plane can carry a weapons load of up to 4.5 tons and can be armed with a wide range of weapon systems including AIM-9 sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, AGM-65 air-to-ground tactical missiles and GBU-38/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), which allows the aircraft to counter multiple threats.

Its maximum speed is Mach 1.5.  [via]

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