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Israeli official in Seoul to discuss jet

Director General of Israel’s Ministry of Defense Udi Shani came to Korea on Thursday to discuss issues regarding the T-50 advanced trainer jet.

Shani’s visit comes on the heels of his visit to Italy, Korea’s competitor for a lucrative defense contract estimated to be worth $1 billion.

Israel has been weighing the Korean-made T-50 against Italy’s M-346 to replace the U.S.-made A-4 Skyhawk advanced trainer jet.

While the Israeli defense ministry is said to be planning to make the decision within weeks, the process remains open and much speculation has arisen about the deal.

Following an accident in November when an M-346 crashed during an air show in Dubai, Korea appeared to gain an edge over the Italian rival. In addition, Korean Aerospace Industries, which produces the T-50, is reported to have gained support from Israeli defense contractors in the hopes of winning contracts sponsored by the Korean government.

However, there has been speculation that Israel favored the Italian jet, and reports that the country had penciled in a contract with M-346’s manufacturer were denied by the Israeli government.

By Choi He-suk (cheesuk@heraldcorp.com)
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