Home' Asia Pacific Defence Reporter : APDR Feb 2014 Contents 42 Asia Pacific Defence Reporter feb 2014
T-50 ‘Golden eaGle
t has been a little over a decade since South
Korea first flew the T-50, on 20 August 2002, and
joined the relatively small number of countries to
have indigenously produced a supersonic aircraft.
In 1992 Samsung Aerospace began development
of what was then called the KTX-2 to bridge the gap
between the Republic of Korea Air Force’s (ROKAF’s)
advanced trainers and fighters and replace its
Northrop T-38 Talon and Cessna A-37 Dragonfly jets.
Seventeen percent of the funding for the US
$2 billion trainer programme came from Korea
Aerospace Industries (created in 1999 with the
consolidation of Samsung, Daewoo Heavy Industries
and Hyundai Space & Aircraft), 13% from Lockheed
Martin and 70% from the Korean government. The
latter’s large investment guaranteed full control over
the design and development of the aircraft and
the strengthening of the local aerospace industry.
Lockheed Martin’s KF-16 Fighting Falcon offsets
facilitated its involvement in the project – the US
company is the main subcontractor and advisor to
KAI and was responsible for the development of the
wings, flight controls and avionics, as well as long-
Lockheed Martin’s influence in the project is clear
as the T-50 bears a striking resemblance to the F-16.
Although shorter than an F-16, the T-50 has relatively
larger control surfaces for better handling, especially
at low speeds, and larger landing gear to absorb
harder impacts. An 8 045 kg (17 700 lb) thrust
afterburning General Electric F404 engine with full
authority digital engine control (FADEC) provides a
top speed of Mach 1.5, making the T-50 one of the
world’s few supersonic trainers.
The T-50 bridges the gap between basic jet
training and high-performance supersonic aircraft.
Lockheed Martin claims it is the only trainer available
presently that provides for fifth generation fighter
training - it features a glass cockpit, digital flight
control system and advanced avionics. The cockpit’s
multifunction displays can be programmed depending
on a pilot’s needs. Other cockpit features include a
head-up display, hands-on throttle and stick controls,
night vision compatible instruments and provision
for helmet-mounted displays. The Martin Baker zero/
zero ejection seats are angled back by 17 degrees –
similar to the F-22. The design load factor is minus
three and eight g’s, with the trainer version designed
for a 10 000 hour service life.
For training missions, an embedded system
simulates sensors, threats, targets, countermeasures
and weapons. All flight data, simulated systems
and weapons scoring data is recorded and can be
replayed on the ground. Various training aids include
electronically linked sticks that allow the instructor to
feel the student’s movements and make suggestions
or corrections as needed. Digital fly-by-wire flight
controls that limit aircraft pitch, angle of attack and
roll rate make it easier for the student to fly the T-50.
The ROKAF placed an initial T-50 production
order in December 2003 and the first student class
commenced flying with the aircraft in February 2007.
The ROKAF took delivery of its 50th and final T-50
trainer in May 2010, less than five years from initial
delivery, allowing it to retire the T-38 and stop using
the BAE Systems Hawk Mk 67 and Northrop F-5E
Tiger II for lead-in fighter training duties - these lacked
the digital displays and advanced avionics of the T-50.
Two training squadrons at Gwangju Air Base (the
189th and 203rd Squadrons) use the Golden Eagle
to graduate around 140 students per year. Around
two thirds go on to fly the KF-16 and the remainder
the F-5E. The similarities between the T-50 and the
KF-16 make transition relatively easy for new pilots,
with fewer transition flights required.
T-50 'Golden Eagle'
T-50 goes for goldGUy Martin // Johannesburg
Korea Aerospace Industry’s (KAI) T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer/light fighter jet recently gained its second
international customer and appears poised for further export success. KAI is aggressively marketing the type to nations in
the Asia-Pacific, notably the Philippines, and is also eyeing the US Air Force’s T-X trainer programme that could lead to an
order for more than 300 aircraft.
28/01/14 3:23 PM
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