Monday, November 16, 2009

KAI looks beyond UAE for Middle East T-50 market

By Siva Govindasamy

Korea Aerospace Industries is putting aside concerns about losing a United Arab Emirates competition for 48 advanced jet trainers and is pushing its T-50 in the other parts of the Middle East with lead-in fighter trainer requirements.

The UAE selected the Aermacchi M-346 in February, but KAI holds faint hopes that it could get back into contention, given that a contract has yet to be signed after nine months of negotiations. But Kim Jin Hyuk, KAI's deputy senior manager for T-50 business development in the Middle East, says that the company is already looking at other potential customers in the region.

"Many countries in the Middle East will want advanced jet trainers and we are focusing our attention on them," says Kim Jin Hyuk, KAI's deputy senior manager for T-50 business development in the Middle East. "These are countries that have the funds and capability to buy advanced fighters like the Eurofighter Typhoon, [Lockheed Martin] F-16 and later on the [Lockheed Martin] F-35."

Initial discussions have begun with Qatar and Oman, while KAI and its international marketing partner Lockheed Martin, which also helped to develop the T-50, are hoping to begin discussions with Saudi Arabia as well. Iraq is also considering a purchase of the aircraft in this region. All of the countries that are interested will consider both the trainer variants and the A-50 light combat aircraft, says Kim.

Existing trainer fleets in the region are not capable enough for these fourth- and fifth-generation fighters, says Kim. The T-50 offers an integrated training system that combines the aircraft, simulator, computer learning and integrated logistics support to maximise training effectiveness, he adds.

One of the advantages of the T-50 is its wide performance envelope that provides cadet pilots with the training needed to prepare for fast jet flights, says KAI. It also has a glass cockpit that allows students to learn how to manage complex weapons systems in a fighter-like environment.

Its digital flight control system allows the T-50 to behave like a modern fly-by-wire fighter. It has avionics similar to that of fighter aircraft, exposing the student pilots "to a robust and relevant avionics suite prior to flying fighter aircraft", adds the company.


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