Korean Fighter Experimental (KF-X)
A-50 / FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft
The multi-role KF-X aircraft will be designed and built by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI), which partners with Lockheed Martin Corp. to develop the $7.4 billion project. The KF-X aircraft will replace Korea’s F-4D/E Phantom II and F-5E/F Tiger II fleet. The development program is scheduled to be completed in 2026, which includes the production of six prototype fighters by 2021. During the production phase, 120 KF-X aircraft are slated for production serving the South Korean and Indonesian armed forces, helping extend planned F414 engine production through 2032.
The FA-50 is a new version of light combat aircraft manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). The development of the FA-50 began in 1997 and since then six new prototypes were built. The planes have an advanced radar system equipped witha night vision imaging system. The FA-50 is armed with 20mm cannon and air-to-air missiles.
The A-50 is the Light Combat Aircraft variant of T-50. Integrating advanced tactical radar with conventional and precision guided munitions, A-50 is designed to perform multi-role, air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Its air-to-air capability employs advanced digital avionics for close and aerial combat using gunnery algorithms for pin point accuracy. The aircraft is also designed to operate with multiple short range and within visual range missiles. The A-50 performs its air-to-ground mission with equally effective results. The aircraft can deliver free fall munitions with superb accuracy using advanced ranging navigation systems. It can also destroy high value targets using precision munitions such as the AGM-65 Maverick.
The A-50, a T-50 derivative, comes with the most advanced radar and stores management systems and is capable of light air-to-air and air-to-surface engagement. The A-50 possesses all the features of a modern light-combat aircraft: integrated cockpit for tactical information fusion; digital flight control for precise aircraft handling; high-performance engine and aerodynamic design for maneuverability; and advanced weaponry for lethality.
A variant of T-50 is the Fighter Lead-in aircraft version, TA-50. Integrating advanced tactical radar with conventional and precision guided munitions, TA-50 is designed to perform multi-role, air-to-air and air-to-ground missions. Its air-to-air capability employs advanced digital avionics for close and aerial combat using gunnery algorithms for pin point accuracy. The aircraft is also designed to operate with multiple short range and within visual range missiles. TA-50 performs its air-to-ground mission with equally effective results. The aircraft can deliver free fall munitions with superb accuracy using advanced range navigation systems. It can also destroy high value targets using precision munitions such as the AGM-65 Maverick.
The FA-50, based on the TA-50, will be developed for substitution of ROKAF's A-37, F-5 E/F with enhanced survivabilities(RWR, CMDS) and additional mission capabilities(Precision Bombing, Tactical Datalink).
In 2007 South Korea decided to extend its development of the T-50 Golden Eagle advanced jet trainer to include variants dedicated to electronic attack and reconnaissance duties. The new variants, dubbed the EA-50 and RA-50, are to be developed from the South Korean air force's future FA-50 light attack development of the T-50 and TA-50.
In late December 2008 the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) signed a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to develop a light attack jet by 2012, officials said Tuesday. The deal on systems integration and research-and-development is worth about 400 billion won ($317 million). Initially, KAI will modify and upgrade the four prototypes of the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer to advanced light attack aircraft designated FA-50.
DAPA intended to buy about 60 FA-50s to start service in 2013, the same year mass production for export will begin. Once mass production starts by 2013, FA-50 fighters will replace A-37 attack jets and F-4/F-5 fighters in the low-tier backup to the Air Force's high-end KF-16s and F-15Ks, and fifth-generation aircraft to be procured in the future. The Air Force wanted to introduce up to 150 FA-50s to replace its older fighters. As of late 2011 50 T-50s and 10 T-50Bs have been delivered to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), and KAI was starting to deliver the T/A-50 variant to ROKAF.
April 2011 marked a milestone in the history of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), when Jakarta named KAI as the preferred bidder for its advanced jet trainer competition. This paved the way for a $400 million order for 16 T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft, securing the first overseas customer for the indigenous type.
South Korean President Park Geun-hye praised the deployment of South Korea's FA-50 aircraft on 30 October 2014, while ordering the country's military to remain at full readiness. "Now, our security situation is very grave", Park said in a ceremony, marking the deployment of the fighter jets. Park said the deployment of the FA-50 aircrafts marked "a historic day". South Korea deployed 20 fighter jets in September 2014 and there were plans to deploy another 40 new planes in future.
On 26 May 2016, South Korea’s Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) selected GE Aviation as the preferred bidder to supply F414 engines for its next-generation indigenous fighter, known as the KF-X. In a statement, DAPA said GE Aviation scored highest in all four main criteria for the contract: technology, costs, localization and management. The F414-GE-400-powered KF-X will deliver significantly greater mission capability, extended combat radius and longer lifespan compared to current aircraft.
The Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) KF-X fighter will have a two-seat version, developers confirmed in July 2017, following years of depictions of the indigenous aircraft with just one seat.
The FA-50 might initially be equipped with the EL/M-2032 radar from Israel's Elta Systems. DAPA originally wanted to equip the FA-50 with the lightweight Vixen-500E active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar developed by UK firm Selex Sensors and Airborne Systems. Lockheed had been pushing Seoul to select its own AN/APG-67(V)4 radar. Under the agreement with then-General Dynamics signed in the 1990s, the FA-50's combat capability had to remain below that of the F-16, to avoid competition.
On 20 April 2016, the defense unit of conglomerate Hanwha Group was picked as the preferred bidder to build active electronically scanned array (AESA) radars for some 120 fighter jets that South Korea seeks to develop by the mid-2020s. Korea was originally planned to acquire AESA radar technology from U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, but the plan foundered in 2015 after the US Fovernment rejected for security reasons the firm's request to transfer four core technologies involving F-35 fighter jets ? infrared search and track, electronic optics targeting pod, radio frequency jammer and AESA radar ? to Korea.
Hanwha Thales trumped its rival LIG Nex1 Co., which had also been vying for the spot and was now next in line for negotiations. The Agency for Defense Development [ADD] commenced negotiations with Hanwha Thales and is slated to ink a deal in June 2016. “The technological capacities and the cost efficiency were the two main categories in selecting the priority negotiation partner, along with security and cooperation with small and medium enterprises," said an ADD official.
Hanwha Thales, set to clinch the final contract with ADD, planned to produce the first prototype of the radar by June 2017 and another one by the following year if the radar worked as planned. Signals from AESA radars are spread out across a band of frequencies and are difficult to detect over background noise, making it less susceptible to detection. This allows the ships or aircrafts to remain stealthy while sending out radar signals.
In August 2016 the state-run Agency for Defense Development(ADD) launched a project to develop an advanced radar system to be placed on the country’s indigenous fighter jets. The Defense Acquisition Program Administration(DAPA) said that the ADD held a related meeting on Wednesday at its headquarters in Daejeon to mark the launch of the process to develop the active electronically scanned array(AESA) radars for some 120 KF-X fighter jets. The ADD said that it plans to produce the first prototype of the AESA radar system by the second half of 2020. It said that starting in 2021, the radar system will undergo a five-year test run after being mounted onto the KF-X. The ADD plans to complete the development project by 2026. The South Korean military decided to develop the AESA radar system on its own as the United States refused to transfer core technologies related to the fighter jet, including the advanced radar, in April 2015.
This is the first time a radarsystem of this caliber is being developed in Korea, so we will need to bring in some foreign technologies. If the radar development does not meet technical standards despite being near completion, we will need to purchase the radar from other countries. The AESA radar is less vulnerable to enemy jamming attempts and it will be able to detect up to 20 fighter jets at once. Moreover, unlike previous radars operated by the Korean Air Force, the AESA can also detect simultaneously enemy ground vehicles and warships.
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