January 16, 2012: South Korea has ordered twenty locally made FA-50 fighter-bombers for $30 million each. The aircraft will be equipped with South Korean, American, and Israeli electronics. The single engine, single seat aircraft is intended to eventually replace South Korea's aging fleet of 150 F-5 fighters. But first, the initial twenty FA-50s will have to show what they can do in active service. The first FA-50 will be delivered next year, and the last of them the year after that.
The FA-50 is the combat version of the South Korean designed and manufactured T-50 jet trainer. This aircraft was developed over the last decade, at a cost of over two billion dollars. The first test flight of the T-50 took place in 2002. The 13 ton aircraft is actually a light fighter and can fly at supersonic speeds. With some added equipment (radars and fire control), the T-50 becomes the FA-50, a combat aircraft. This version carries a 20mm auto-cannon and up to 4.5 tons of smart bombs and missiles. The T-50 can stay in the air about four hours per sortie and has a service life of 8,000 hours in the air.
At $20 million each, the T-50 is one of the more competitive jet trainers on the market. About 100-150 of these trainer aircraft are bought each year by the world's air forces. But it is a tough market, and so far the only export customer for the T-50 has been 16 sold to Indonesia. Nearly a hundred T-50 type aircraft have been produced or are on order. In addition to the FA-50 variant, there is a light bomber variant (the TA-50) that costs $25 million each.