Support: The South Korean Challenge


November 29, 2018: Indonesia recently ordered three more South Korean KT-1B prop driven basic trainers. Since 2003 Indonesia has ordered 17 T-1s. The three new T-1s are to replace three lost in accidents since 2010. Indonesia was the first export customer for the T-1, which is a 3.3 ton, two-seat aircraft with one engine. Max speed is 574 kilometers an hour and endurance is nearly three hours. The T-1 first flew in 1991 and entered service in 1999 with the initial user being South Korea. The T-1 can also be armed with a 12.7mm machine-gun as well as unguided rockets and bombs. Armed T-1s are often used for combat training and to assist with that the T-1 can also carry an infrared (heat sensing) radar for flying in bad weather. Most of the 175 T-1s already built were for the South Korean Air Force. Export customers (Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Turkey (which ordered 40) have been pleased with the aircraft. The recent Indonesian order for new T-1s also included upgrades for the 16 T-50 jet trainers ordered in 2011. The upgrades include radars and 12.7mm machine-guns so that the T-50s can be used for more realistic combat training as well as light ground attack aircraft. Both the T-1 and T-50 can be equipped with the Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile.

South Korea is the new supplier for trainer aircraft and competing in a crowded market. The success of the KT-1 encouraged South Korea to proceed with developing the T-50 jet-powered advanced trainer. This has found some export customers but that fact that this is also a very competitive market is one reason why the T-50 lost the competition to be the new American jet trainer in 2018. Sales have been lost for other reasons. In 2015 the United States stepped in and blocked an effort by Uzbekistan to buy twelve T-50s. This was a major loss as these aircraft were costing $34 million each (including training, spare parts, and some tech support). The United States was able to block the T-50 sale because the aircraft uses American jet engines and a lot of American electronics. All this stuff requires American permission before it can be exported as part of an aircraft. Normally this is not a problem. Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand have also bought the T-50s with no problem. None of those countries pose any technology theft risks.

Uzbekistan, however, has close military, political and economic ties to Russia and China. Similar concerns also led to the recent refusal of the United States to transfer several key military technologies so South Korea could build its locally designed KFX jet fighter. The refusal was because of American security concerns. This is more of a problem in Asia as East Asian nations (like Japan several times in the past) have proved vulnerable to China spies seeking to obtain key military technologies. Not just the specifications but the more difficult to obtain details of actually manufacturing such tech. Most of the technologies the U.S. will not give South Korea access to are only available from a few sources, or only the United States.

The single-engine, two-seat T-50 can also be used for combat with about $10 million worth of additions and upgrades. The South Korean designed and manufactured T-50 jet trainer was developed after more than a decade of effort at a cost of over two billion dollars. The first test flight of the T-50 took place in 2002 and it entered service three years later. 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 TA-50, a combat aircraft. This version carries a 20mm auto-cannon and up to 4.5 tons of smart bombs and missiles plus electronics to make all that work. The T-50 can stay in the air about four hours per sortie and has a service life of 8,000 flight hours.




Help Keep Us From Drying Up

We need your help! Our subscription base has slowly been dwindling.

Each month we count on your contribute. You can support us in the following ways:

  1. Make sure you spread the word about us. Two ways to do that are to like us on Facebook and follow us on Twitter.
  2. Subscribe to our daily newsletter. We’ll send the news to your email box, and you don’t have to come to the site unless you want to read columns or see photos.
  3. You can contribute to the health of StrategyPage.
Subscribe   contribute   Close