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T-50 Golden Eagle / A-50

The T-50 Golden Eagle is a supersonic advanced jet trainer being developed by KAI for the ROKAF. Lockheed Martin Aeronautics, the principal subcontractor to KAI, is providing technical expertise in all aspects of the program and is responsible for developing the T-50 avionics system, flight control system and wings. The two companies are cooperatively marketing the T-50 internationally.


The T-50 has the maneuverability, endurance and advanced systems to prepare future pilots to fly current and next-generation fighters like advanced F-16s, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter. These same characteristics give it an excellent capability as a lead-in fighter trainer and potential light-combat aircraft in many air forces.

There is a very real problem emerging in the fighter community today. The aircraft currently used to train fighter pilots started production in the 1950s and 1960s and are approaching the limit of their service life. Age and attrition as well as widening gaps between past and current technologies are creating concern in many fighter communities around the world.

Because 4th generation fighters today are more complex and capable than ever before, fighter pilots must properly trained to operate their aircraft at the maximum envelop to fully utilize the fighter capability during combat. To address these critical issues, the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) has commissioned Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin Aeronautics Company (LM Aero) to develop and produce the T-50 for the ROKAF.

Under a partnership arrangement, KAI and LM Aero have jointly invested in the T-50, making it the only recently developed advanced supersonic trainer. The T-50 is designed as an advanced trainer for fighter pilots selected to fly world's 4th and 5th generation fighter aircraft. It is the highest efficiency training system because it provides trainee pilots rapid transition to a modern fighter environment utilizing the latest advancement in aviation technology. T-50 can also function as a Light Combat Aircraft for the defense of national borders. T-50 is the advanced jet trainer for tomorrow's fighter pilot.

Designed for high performance, the T-50 features digital fly-by-wire for precision aircraft handling, relaxed static stability to improve maneuverability, variable camber wing with strakes to maximize the lift to drag ratio and improve directional stability, and tandem seating for superior visibility, and efficient turbo-fan engine utilizing proven technology for maximum reliability and safety, and advanced nav-attack sensor for multi-role mission, and the On Board Oxygen Generating System. T-50 is the only advanced Trainer for the 4th and 5th generation fighter.

The T-50 has a maximum take off gross weight of 26,400 lbs, and empty weight is 14,200 lbs. The engine provides 17,700 lbs of thrust giving the aircraft the maximum speed of 1.4 mach. The aircraft load factor is ranged between -3 and +8 g. The T-50 service ceiling is 48,000 fts and airframe has a structural life over 8,000 hrs. The T-50 is powered by GE-F404 engine. A high performance engine combining the latest technology and engine reliability and safety. It features full authority digital engine control: rapid throttle response without throttle restrictions and automatic engine monitoring with excellent stall free operation and no visible smoke.

The T-50 advanced cockpit features the bubble canopy and tandem seating for superior outer vision. It has a Head-Up Display with excellent field of view for displaying flight information. Two large 5" color multi-function displays for displaying mission and aircraft data as well as weapon selection and control for the light combat aircraft variant. Digital instrumentation and integrated HOTAS operation to allow head up operation.

The T-50 is the first trainer to employ electronic fly-by-wire and digital flight control for precision maneuvering. The digital flight controls are triple redundant and triplex digital flight control provides mult-mode control laws and a flight envelop limit. The actuator is direct drive with actuator reconfiguration mode.

As an advanced jet trainer, the T-50 is used to train pilots on basic cockpit operation, maneuvering and situation awareness. The T-50 is also designed as a Lead In Fighter Trainer where tactical skills and advanced flight instruction are all taught.

The T-50 is a total training system. Classroom training provides student with basic theory and operation of the aircraft and mission. The ground base training system is a computer assisted learning tool designed to transition the classroom instruction into practical flying skills. The simulator is used to emulate the aircraft cockpit and flying profile. Trainees using the simulator can transfer their flying mission back to the ground base training system for mission playback to analyze their performance. The trainees are then taken into aircraft for flight training. Basic aircraft instrument and handling are taught along with advanced tactical and new operational skills and weapon delivery.

Program History

As the prime contractor for the T-50, KAI is responsible for system integration and manufacturing. The trainer is assembled and delivered at KAI's Aircraft plant in Sachon Korea. In partnership with KAI for the development of T-50, LM Aero provided technical assistance, the operational flight program for avionics and flight control, and manufacture of the wing.

With a robust prediction of international sales for Advanced Jet Trainer and Light Combat Aircraft, the T-50 is ready to service the needs of customers worldwide. With a growing industrial alliance, form a broad spectrum of leading aerospace companies worldwide. The T-50 program is positioned to service the fighter training community well into the 21st century. The T-50 aircraft is the only advanced jet trainer introduced in the 2000s.

The Republic of Korea Air Forces training experience has shown that the new training system yields a better fighter pilot in less time with fewer sorties and lower cost. The T-50 training program has reduced the number of required flights in the KF-16 to only nine sorties. The Ground-Based Training System contains an array of innovative technologies to provide options for offloading aircraft training tasks into the simulation environment.

The T-50A aircraft configuration is based on South Koreas FA-50, which is currently in production. The FA-50, the most advanced version of the T-50, incorporates air-to-air and air-to-ground weapons, along with an avionics suite that contains an electronic warfare suite, a multi-mode radar and an advanced data-link.

T-50 Program

The aircraft is being built in the T-50A advanced trainer and T-50B lead-in fighter trainer versions. The T-50B is called the A-50 by the South Korean Air Force. The Air Force has a requirement for 50 T-50 trainers and 44 A-50 light attack aircraft. T-50 Full Scale Development program began in 1997 and continued through 2005. T/A-50 Full Scale Development ran from October 1997 through January 2006.

Initially, production authorization was planned for the third quarter of 2003 with production deliveries slated to begin in 2005. The 1st flight took place in October 2002, followed by T-50 production aircraft delivery to the Republic of Korea Air Force with plans to purchase additional T-50 aircraft to replace the aging fleets of F-4s and F-5s.

KAI simultaneously developed the aircraft systems (four flyable test aircraft, two structural test aircraft), integrated logistics support, and the training systems in the T-50 Program since its full-scale development start in October 1997, which is unprecedented. Working side by side with 500 collaborating companies, KAI has successfully performed the entire development process of the new aircraft model including: completing the preliminary design in 1998, finishing the detail design through the aircraft OML freeze in 1999, and completing the component manufacturing and final assembly of the FWD, CTR, AFT fuselage and empennage through the Critical Design Review(CDR) completed in 2000. In addition, KAI successfully completed the final assembly of the first flyable test aircraft(AA-1) in January 2001, three months ahead of schedule.

AA-1 rolled out in October 2002 and successfully performed its historic first flight on August 20, 2002. The second flyable test aircraft, AA-2 successfully flew in November 2002. As the first supersonic flight was conducted successfully in February 2003, Korea became one of the twelve countries that conducted the supersonic flight with their own indigenous aircraft. A production authorization was given in December 2003 as the T-50/TA-50 successfully met the requirements of ROKAF in performance, cost, and schedule.

The Mate-Through-Delivery (MTD) for the production started in December 2004. On August 30, 2005, the first production line T-50 Golden Eagle rolled off Korea Aerospace Industries's manufacturing plant. As of August 2005, the South Korean Air Force had ordered 50 T-50s. The first production aircraft was delivered to ROKAF in December 2005. T-50 Trainer IOC was achieved in January 2006. The T-50 entered service in April 2007. The 1st Trainees with T-50 (1FW, 12 Trainees was achieved on 13 October 2007. Delivery of the 21st Trainer took place on 20 November 2007, with approximately one new aircraft delivery being added to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) fleet each month. Delivery of the Initial Mass Production of 25 Trainers was completed in March 2008. The Acrobatic T-50 (Black Eagle) Program began in the 1st Half of 2008. Delivery of 1st Follow-on Production was achieved in August 2008 to the 2nd T-50 Squadron.

On January 24, 2007 the Government of South Korea signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for approximately 50 additional F404-102-powered T-50 and TA-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers bringing, the total number of T-50s ordered by South Korea to more than 70. 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.

The aircraft is being built in the T-50A advanced trainer and T-50B lead-in fighter trainer versions. The T-50B is called the A-50 by the South Korean Air Force. The Air Force has a requirement for 50 T-50 trainers and 44 A-50 light attack aircraft.

The first flight of the T-50 and A-50 took place in August 2002 and September 2003, respectively. T-50/TA-50 Combat Suitability was confirmed in March 2006. Deliveries of the TA-50 began in 2009.

T-50 - Sales

KAI aims at marketing approximately 1,200 aircraft, worth 40 billion dollars, recording 36% market share of the world's advanced trainer market.

As of early 2009 Poland hoped to acquire 16 lead-in fighter trainers for delivery from the third quarter of 2010, with the Korea Aerospace Industries/Lockheed Martin T-50 and Patria-modified BAE Systems Hawk 51 designs in contention. By February 2009 Polish air force pilots had successfully test-flown South Korea's T-50 supersonic trainer jets as the European nation considers the T-50 as a frontrunner for its program to acquire lead-in fighter trainers. The Polish Air Force wanted to buy one full squadron of jets for delivery from the third quarter of 2010. The T-50 was competing with Italy's Aermacchi M-346 for tenders in the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, while Israel, Greece and the United States had shown interest in the aircraft.

In February 2009 the United Arab Emirates (UAE) selected Italy's Aermacchi M-346 over the T-50 supersonic trainer built by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin of the U.S. as the preferred bidder to supply the UAE Air Force with 48 aircraft and training equipment. President Lee Myung-bak put much emphasis on economic feasibility and practicality. He was negative about the KAH program in that context. former President Roh Moo-hyun who focused on building a "self-reliant" defense posture.

The T-50A is the Lockheed Martin aircraft offering in the U.S. Air Forces Advanced Pilot Training competition. The T-50A is low risk and ready now. It builds on the proven heritage of the T-50 with more than 100 T-50s flying today 100,000 flight hours and counting and more than 1,000 pilots trained. The T-50A is the only offering that meets all APT requirements and can deliver those capabilities on schedule at the lowest risk to the customer. Lockheed Martin teams studied clean-sheet alternatives and determined they pose prohibitive risk to APT cost and schedule requirements. The T-50A delivers the performance and capabilities needed to prepare pilots to fly, fight and win with 5th Generation fighter aircraft.

On June 2, 2016 Lockheed Martin successfully completed the initial flight test of its T-50A configured aircraft. The aircraft in its new configuration with the 5th Gen cockpit and other upgrades performed flawlessly, said Mark Ward, Lockheed Martin T-50A lead test pilot, after his flight in Sacheon, South Korea. I have no doubt this aircraft will close the gap which currently exists between the trainer fleet and 5th Generation fighters.

At that time Lockheed Martin was standing up its T-50A Final Assembly and Checkout site in Greenville, South Carolina. The T-50A was developed jointly by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries. The accompanying T-50A Ground-Based Training System features innovative technologies that deliver an immersive, synchronized ground-based training platform.

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