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Air shows brighten T-50 prospects

Performances by Black Eagles aerobatics team boost interest in trainer jet


Korea Aerospace Industries, or KAI, is in talks with numerous countries to export its advanced trainer jet T-50, the company’s CEO Kim Hong-kyung said.

Speaking at the Farnborough International Airshow last week, Kim said that the company was in talks with five or six countries that have shown interest in the jet.

The Farnborough International Airshow in the U.K. is one of the world’s three largest aerospace industry shows, with about 1,400 exhibitors taking part in this year’s event.
The Air Force’s Black Eagles aerobatics team fly the T-50 advanced trainer jets in formation at the Waddington International Air Show in the U.K. on July 1. (Air Force)
The Air Force’s Black Eagles aerobatics team fly the T-50 advanced trainer jets in formation at the Waddington International Air Show in the U.K. on July 1. (Air Force)

“Prospects for exports are not bad, and having met with many countries’ representatives at the show, there is high interest in the T-50,” Kim said.

“At present, (the company is in talks with) five or six countries about the T-50, two or three countries about the KT-1 and three or four countries about exporting the Surion.”

The KT-1 is a propeller-driven basic training aircraft and the Surion ― or the KUH-Surion ― is a locally developed helicopter.

While optimistic about the prospects of exporting locally produced aircraft, Kim advised caution, saying that exporting advanced trainer jets was a long-term project.

“It takes more than five years just to draw up the plans to select the preferred bidder. In particular, countries like the United Arab Emirates are looking to purchase the best aircraft in the world. So they are likely to wait until after the U.S. has made the decision.”

He added that the performances from the Korean Air Force’s aerobatics team Black Eagles have been a boost for promoting the T-50. The Black Eagles operate the locally developed T-50 trainer jets, and won first prize in the display category of the Waddington International Air Show on July 2, a week ahead of the Farnborough event.

“Winning the prize was an opportunity to let the air forces across the world know about the T-50. The chiefs of U.S. and Polish air forces praised the Black Eagles as soon as they saw me,” Kim said.

Along with KAI, major aerospace firms including Boeing, Lockheed Martin and the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company, which are competing for Korea’s 8.3 trillion won ($7.2 billion) fighter jet procurement program, displayed their wares at the air show.

While Boeing and Lockheed Martin did not display operational versions of their offers for the Korean procurement program, EADS’ booth was dominated by the Eurofighter displayed outside the company’s pavilion.

Boeing is competing with the F-15 Silent Eagle while Lockheed Martin hopes to win the contract with the F-35. Both of the U.S. models are still under development.

At the event, EADS executives again stressed the company’s willingness to provide Korea with partner status if Seoul selects the Eurofighter.

“The Eurofighter consortium has the willpower to share the work with other partners. This is one very important thing that differentiates it from other competitors,” said Berndt Wunsche, senior vice president of Eurofighter GmbH.

“We have capability and necessary experience in cooperating and sharing work. To give this necessary tooling we need the final assembly in South Korea. We will do it if we can win the contract in South Korea.”

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