South Korea signed a $420 million contract with the Philippines on Friday to sell 12 light attack FA-50 fighters, further boosting efforts to expand its presence in the global warplane market.
The Philippines is to receive the aircraft within 38 months after the deal goes into effect, according to Korea Aerospace Industries, the country’s sole aircraft maker. The deal is to take effect after Manila wires a deposit to KAI within two months of the signing.
|Korea's light attacker FA-50 (Yonhap)|
The signing ceremony was attended by Korea Trade-Investment Promotion Agency CEO Oh Young-ho, Defense Acquisition Program Administration chief Lee Yong-gol, KAI CEO Ha Sung-yong and Manila’s Defense Minister Voltaire T. Gazmin.
The latest deal came after KAI scored a $1.1 billion contract with Iraq last year to sell 24 FA-50s and signed a $400 million contract with Indonesia in 2011 to sell 16 T-50 trainer jets.
“This is the third export deal after we clinched deals with Indonesia and Iraq. This attests to an increasing global recognition of South Korea’s aviation technology,” said DAPA chief Lee. “This deal, I believe, would help raise Korea’s industrial profile here in the Philippines.”
The FA-50 is based on the T-50 trainer jet, which was developed with technological assistance from the U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin.
The aircraft that competed against the FA-50 to win Manila’s largest-ever defense deal were mostly secondhand fighters. They included Sweden’s JAS-39, U.S.-made F-16 and Israel’s KFIR.
Manila suffered some delays in the high-profile project due to natural disasters including floods, an earthquake and a typhoon.
Seoul officials said that the Park Geun-hye administration’s aggressive “sales diplomacy” has helped Korea win Manila’s military project.
Last October, Philippines’ President Benigno Aquino visited Seoul at Park’s invitation. Park expressed her wish to him for Korea’s exportation of the FA-50 to the Southeast Asian state. At the time, the two countries signed a memorandum of understanding to strengthen bilateral defense cooperation.
KAI has been hoping to sell some 1,000 T-50 trainer jets to the U.S., Botswana, UAE, Thailand and Peru. The U.S., in particular, is likely to be the biggest market for the trainer jet as it is expected to purchase around 500 trainer aircraft to replace its aging T-38C jets in around 2017.
Should Korea sell 1,000 T-50 jets overseas, it would create an “industrial ripple effect” worth 32 trillion won ($30 billion) and create a total of 170,000 jobs, Seoul officials estimated.
The FA-50 measures 13.13 meters in length, 9.45 meters in width and 4.85 meters in height. It can carry up to 4,500 kilograms of payloads and fly at a maximum speed of Mach 1.5.
By Song Sang-ho