|T-50 Golden Eagle|
|Republic of Korea Air Force TA-50 in 2010|
|Role||Advanced trainer, multirole fighter|
|Manufacturer||Korea Aerospace Industries(with technical support from Lockheed Martin)|
|First flight||20 August 2002|
|Introduction||22 February 2005|
|Primary users||Republic of Korea Air Force|
Indonesian Air Force
The KAI T-50 Golden Eagle is a family of South Korean supersonic advanced trainers and multirole light fighters, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries with Lockheed Martin. The T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. Development began in the late 1990s, and its maiden flight occurred in 2002. The aircraft entered active service with the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2005.
The T-50 has been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. The F-50 is another advanced fighter variant being considered. The T-50B serves with the South Korean air force's aerobatics team. The TA-50 light attack variant has been ordered by Indonesia. Additional export orders are being pursued by Iraq, Poland, and Spain. The Philippines has begun contract negotiations to order the FA-50 variant. The T-50 is also being marketed as a candidate for the United States Air Force's next-generation T-X trainer programme.
Development[edit | edit source]
Origins[edit | edit source]
The T-50 program was originally intended to develop an indigenous trainer aircraft capable of supersonic flight, to train and prepare pilots for the KF-16 and F-15K, replacing trainers such as T-38 and A-37 that were then in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force. Prior South Korean aircraft programs include the propeller-driven KT-1 basic trainer produced by Daewoo Aerospace (now part of KAI), and license-manufactured KF-16. In general, the T-50 series of aircraft closely resembles the KF-16 in configuration.
The mother program, code-named KTX-2, began in 1992, but the Ministry of Finance and Economy suspended KTX-2 in 1995 due to financial constraints. The basic design of the aircraft was set by 1999. The development of the aircraft was funded 70% by the South Korean government, 17% by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), and 13% by Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft was formally designated as T-50 Golden Eagle in February 2000. The T-50A designation was reserved by the U.S. military to prevent to it from being inadvertently assigned to another aircraft model. Final assembly of the first T-50 took place between 15 January and 14 September 2001. The first flight of the T-50 took place in August 2002, and initial operational assessment from 28 July to 14 August 2003.
KAI and Lockheed Martin are currently pursuing a joint marketing program for the T-50 internationally. The South Korean air force placed a production contract for 25 T-50s in December 2003, with aircraft scheduled to be delivered between 2005 and 2009. Original T-50 aircraft are equipped with the AN/PG-67(v)4 radar from Lockheed Martin. The Golden Eagle series is equipped with the a GE F404 engine with Full Authority Digital Control (FADC); it is built under license by Samsung Techwin. Under terms of a T-50/F404-102 co-production agreement, GE provides engine kits directly to Samsung Techwin who produces designated parts as well as performs final engine assembly and test.
Improved versions[edit | edit source]
The program has expanded beyond a trainer concept to include the TA-50 light attack aircraft, as well as the FA-50 multirole fighter similar to the multirole KF-16. The TA-50 variant is a more heavily armed version of the T-50 trainer, intended for lead-in fighter training and light attack roles. It is equipped with the Elta EL/M-2032 fire control radar. The TA-50 is designed to operate as a full-fledged combat platform for precision-guided weapons, air-to-air missiles, and air-to-ground missiles. The TA-50 can mount additional utility pods for reconnaissance, targeting assistance, and electronic warfare. Reconnaissance and electronic warfare variants are also being developed, designated as RA-50 and EA-50.
The FA-50 is the most advanced version of the T-50. It is equipped with a modified Israeli EL/M-2032 pulse-Doppler radar with further Korean-specific modifications by LIG Nex1, and has more internal fuel capacity, enhanced avionics, a longer radome and a tactical datalink. The radar selected for the FA-50 has a range two-thirds greater than the TA-50's radar. The EL/M-2032 was initially chosen over Lockheed Martin's preferred AN/APG-67(V)4 and SELEX Vixen 500E AESA radars. Other AESA radars such as Raytheon Advanced Combat Radar and Northrop Grumman's Scalable Agile Beam Radar are options for future production, and will likely be shared with the same AESA radar chosen for the USAF and ROKAF F-16 fighters. Samsung Thales is also independently developing a domestic multi-mode AESA radar for FA-50. In December 2008, South Korea awarded a contract to Korea Aerospace Industries to convert four T-50s to FA-50 standards by 2012. In 2012, The Republic of Korea Air Force has ordered 20 FA-50 fighters to be delivered by the end of 2014. The maiden flight of FA-50 multirole fighter variant took place in 2011. The 60 FA-50 aircraft are to be produced from 2013 to 2016. Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) received a 1.1 trillion won ($1 billion) order for FA-50 fighter aircraft in May 2013.
The T-50 is the proposed base for the more advanced F-50 fighter with strengthened wings, AESA radar, more internal fuel, enhanced electronic warfare capability, and a more powerful engine. The proposal is designated as T-50 Phase 3 program by KAI. Wing strengthening is required to support three underwing weapons pylons, compared to two underwing pylons on the TA-50 or FA-50. The AESA radar was expected to be RACR, which has 90% commonality with the AESA radar of the Super Hornet, or SABR, both of which are competing for KF-16's AESA radar upgrade program. Samsung Thales' AESA radar is also a possible option. The aircraft was altered to a single-seat configuration to allow more space for internal fuel and electronic warfare equipment. The engine could be either Eurojet EJ200 or General Electric F414, upgraded to 20,000 lb or 22,000 lb thrust, which is about 12-25% higher than the F404's thrust. The engines are already being offered for the baseline T-50 for future customers. A similar Korean-led international fighter program exists named the KAI KF-X.
Design[edit | edit source]
Overview[edit | edit source]
The T-50 Golden Eagle design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons. KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the T-50.
The trainer can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against 4-lb objects impacting at 400 knots. The altitude limit is 14,600 metres (48,000 ft), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 litres (701 US gal), five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 litres (452 US gal) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks. T-50 trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The T-50 Golden Eagle uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system jointly developed by General Electric and Korea Aerospace Industries. The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. The more powerful F414 and EJ200 engines have been suggested as the new engine for the T-50 family.
Avionics[edit | edit source]
The T-50's central processing unit and its operating system are developed by MDS Technology. The T-50's NEOS avionics operating system is the first and only real-time operating system to be developed by an Asian company, and holds both DO-178B and IEEE POSIX certification. Samsung Thales and LIG Nex1 are the main avionics and electronic warfare equipment developers for T-50 and its variants. Other South Korean companies and defense institutes such as DoDAAM Systems, Aeromaster, Intellics, and Korea Institute of Defense Analysis are responsible for the aircraft's secondary avionics and embedded systems, including store management computers, avionics testing equipment, flight data recorders, portable maintenance aids, data analysis software, post-flight data processing system, aircraft structure and engine management software, and mission planning and support systems. The TA-50 version is equipped with an ELTA EL/M-2032 fire control radar.
The T-50 is equipped with a Honeywell H-764G embedded global positioning/inertial navigation system and HG9550 radar altimeter. The aircraft is the first trainer to feature triple-redundant digital fly-by-wire controls. The cockpit panels, switches, and joysticks are produced by South Korea's FirsTec and Sungjin Techwin, head-up display by DoDaaM Systems, and multi-function display by Samsung Thales. Other South Korean subcontractors such as Elemech, Dawin Friction, and Withus cooperate in T-50 components production. Hanwha supplies the mechanical parts for the flight control system, and WIA supplies the undercarriage.
Armament and equipment[edit | edit source]
The TA-50 version mounts a three-barrel cannon version of the M61 Vulcan internally behind the cockpit, which fires linkless 20 mm ammunition. Wingtip rails can accommodate the AIM-9 Sidewinders missile, a variety of additional weapons can be mounted to underwing hardpoints. Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick missile, Hydra 70 and LOGIR rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, −83, and −84 general purpose bombs.
FA-50 can be externally fitted with Rafael's Sky Shield or LIG Nex1's ALQ-200K ECM pods, Sniper or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter's electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities. Other improved weapon systems over TA-50 include SPICE multifunctional guidance kits, Textron CBU-97/105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon with WCMD tail kits, JDAM, and JDAM-ER for more comprehensive air-to-ground operations, and AIM-120 missiles for BVR air-to-air operations. FA-50 has provisions for, but does not yet integrate, Python and Derby missiles, also produced by Rafael, and other anti-ship missiles, stand-off weapons, and sensors to be domestically developed by Korea.
Operational history[edit | edit source]
Republic of Korea[edit | edit source]
In 2011, the first squadron with the TA-50, the T-50's light attack variant, become operational with the Republic of Korea Air Force. South Korean air force's aerobatics team operates the T-50B version.
Indonesia[edit | edit source]
Indonesia had been considering the T-50 to replace the BAE Hawk and A-4 Skyhawk as the T-50 had excellent interoperability with the current Indonesian F-16s. In August 2010, Indonesia announced that T-50, Yak-130 and L-159 were the remaining candidates for its requirement for 16 advanced jet trainers. In May 2011, Indonesia signed a contract to order 16 TA-50 aircraft for $400 million. The aircraft is to feature weapons pylons and gun modules, enabling light attack capabilities. The Golden Eagles are to replace the Hawk Mk 53 in TNI–AU service. Indonesia's version has been designated T-50i. Deliveries began in September 2013.
Possible sales[edit | edit source]
The T-50 was competing for a Polish Air Force order for 16 aircraft with ex-Finnish Air Force BAE Hawk 51s, refurbished by the Finnish defence company, Patria. In 2010 a first tender for lead-in fighter trainer aircraft (LIFT) was issued, but it was cancelled in 2011 after BAE Hawk T2/128 and Aero L-159 Alca had withdrawn from the contest due to requirements for fly-by-wire, supersonic speed and combat capacity, leaving the T-50P and M-346 bids. In 2012, the competition was relaunched with specifications for eight Advanced Jet Trainers (AJT). In June 2013 initial proposals from BAE Systems offering Hawk AJT, Lockheed Martin UK with (KAI) T-50, and Alenia Aermacchi M-346 were offered. The winner of this competition is planned to begin replacing the PZL TS-11 Iskra in 2015.
Iraq was negotiating the acquisition of T-50 trainer jets, having first publicly expressed official interest during the Korea-Iraq summit in Seoul on 24 February 2009. In April 2010, Iraq has reopened the jet lead-in fighter-trainer competition for 24 aircraft, in which TA-50 will compete.
The Philippine Air Force initially choose 12 KAI TA-50 aircraft to fulfill its requirement for a light attack trainer. The Department of National Defense (DND) announced the selection of the type in August 2012. Philippines' Congress approved funding for 12 trainer aircraft in September 2012. The Korean government stated in August 2012 that the aircraft had not been ordered and that the two nations have to first reach an agreement on its export. In late January 2013, state media reported that the FA-50, not the TA-50 as earlier reported, was selected with 18.9 billion pesos (US$464 million) set aside for 12 aircraft; contract negotiations are underway. On 27 August 2013, Philippine Air Force stated that plans are for the first two FA-50s are to be delivered in late 2014, with deliveries continuing until 2016, provided a contract is signed in 2013. During the 2-day state visit of President Aquino in Seoul, South Korea, he said the Philippines was close to finalizing a FA-50 deal. He said that both sides had agreed on the purchase, although there is still no definite delivery date. By 19 October, President Aquino and President Park Geung-hye of South Korea had signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) which contains provisions for acquisitions. The United Arab Emirates is seeking 35–40 fighter-trainers. In February 2009, UAE selected the M-346 over the T-50. But in January 2010, UAE reopened the trainer contest. In 2011, it was confirmed that T-50 is still competing in UAE.
In the United States, South Korea will attempt to sell T-50s and buy F-35s. The T-50 is one of the contenders for the US Air Force's T-X program, with an opportunity to export 300 to 1,000 aircraft worth about $6 billion to $20 billion.
Failed Bids[edit | edit source]
Singapore evaluated the T-50 against the Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and the BAE Hawk for a $500 million trainer acquisition program contract for 12–16 aircraft. The Singapore Ministry of Defense eventually selected the M-346 aircraft ahead of T-50 and BAE Hawk in July 2010.
Israel has been evaluating the T-50 as a possible replacement for its Douglas TA-4H Skyhawk trainers since 2003. On 16 February 2012, Israel announced its decision to procure thirty M-346 instead.
Variants[edit | edit source]
- Advanced trainer version.
- Aerobatic specialized T-50 version for Black Eagles aerobatic team.
- Tactical trainer/light attack version.
- Multirole fighter all-weather version under development to replace F-5E/F by 2013. Originally named A-50, a prototype from a converted T-50 first flew in 2011.
- Based on TA-50 version, special order for Indonesian Air Force .
Operators[edit | edit source]
- Indonesian Air Force
- 16 TA-50i aircraft ordered; 2 of those aircraft in inventory as of September 2013.
- Republic of Korea Air Force
- 50 T-50 aircraft in service
- 10 T-50B aircraft in service
- 22 TA-50 aircraft in service
- 20 FA-50 aircraft ordered
Specifications[edit | edit source]
- Crew: 2
- Length: 13.14 m (43.1 ft)
- Wingspan: 9.45 m) (with wingtip missiles) (31 ft)
- Height: 4.94 m (16.2 ft)
- Empty weight: 6,470 kg (14,285 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 12,300 kg (27,300 lb)
- Powerplant: 1× General Electric F404 (built under license by Samsung Techwin) afterburning turbofan
- Dry thrust: 53.07 kN (11,925 lbf)
- Thrust with afterburner: 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf)
- Maximum speed: 1,770 km/h, 1,100 mph at 3,000 m or 10,000 ft (Mach 1.5)
- Range: 1,851 km (1,150 mi)
- Service ceiling: 14,630 m (48,000 ft)
- Rate of climb: 11,887 m/min (39,000 ft/min)
- Thrust/weight: 0.96
- Max g limit: -3 g / +8 g
- Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) General Dynamics A-50 3-barrel rotary cannon
- Hardpoints: Total: 7
See also[edit | edit source]
- General Dynamics F-16 Fighting Falcon
- AIDC F-CK-1 Ching-kuo
- Guizhou JL-9
- Hongdu L-15
- Hongdu JL-8
- HAL Tejas
- Yakovlev Yak-130
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