"Today's Trainers, Tomorrow's Fighters"
(Korean Aerospace Industry (KAI) Intro. site)
* Image source: Wikipedia
'T-50 Golden Eagle'
Next Target for Lee’s “Sales Diplomacy” is T-50 Trainer Jets
Buoyed by the latest success on nuclear power plant bid in the United Arab Emirates (UAE), now the business-tycoon-turned President Lee Myung-bak’s “sales diplomacy” target for the year is set on exporting T-50 trainer jets.
Lee reportedly instructed the relevant defense industry affairs officials to wage an “all-out” campaign to export the trainer jets.
Last month, a consortium led by the Korea Electric Power Corp. inked a $40 billion contract to build nuclear power plants in the UAE.
At that time, Lee made a personal effort to make the bid successful, including flying to the Middle East country at the last minute to hold a summit with its top leaders.
T-50, South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft built by Korea Aerospace Industry (KAI), Korea's only aerospace firm, is also one of the few supersonic trainers in the world. But it had failed to win a contract earlier last year in the UAE, which selected the Italian M-346 as the preferred aircraft in the $1.3-billion deal.
Currently, T-50 is competing with the same Italian M-346 in Singapore, which is expected to announce its final selection in February during an international air show or in March at the latest.
“T-50 has a better chance to be selected because Singapore attaches primary importance to high quality with low price,” said a high-level defense diplomacy official, according to local newspaper, Donga Ilbo.
“We are ready to make up our earlier loss at the UAE with our Italian rival this time (in Singapore),” he said.
The deal with Singapore is seen also important as it will have an impact to other potential buyers of the Korea-engineered trainer jets, including Poland, Greece and Israel.
KAI invested two trillion won and 13 years to develop the T-50.
“President Lee will make an all-out effort in the T-50 bidding campaigns in the new year,” a senior government official told the newspaper.
A T-50's flyaway cost is set at around 25 billion won ($16.9 million), comparable to the combined price of 1,000 medium-sized sedans.