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T-50 Trainer Debuts at Dubai Air Show

Posted November. 26, 2005 07:19,   


“We (Korea) have been importing planes from the United States. But now, we are about to export them. Look how many people are around the T-50,” said Jeon Wan-gi, the head of the export division for Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), pointing proudly at the T-50 (Golden Eagle), which was standing in front of the VIP section at Dubai International Airport yesterday, the last day of the 2005 Dubai Air Show in Dubai, United Arab Emirates.

T-50 is the first Korean-made supersonic trainer plane, developed jointly with Lockheed Martin of the United States. KAI and Lockheed Martin started developing the plane in 1997, and the first T-50 was produced this August, and took 2.1 trillion won to make. It was introduced to the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) early last month and will be used in pilot training starting 2007.

The Dubai Air Show, which had 550 companies from 40 countries participating, exhibited about 70 planes along the taxiway of the airport. Italy’s M-346, a competitor to the T-50, the Czech Republic’s L-159, Switzerland’s PC-21, and Pakistan K-8 were also exhibited.

People continuously took photos in front of the T-50. Many tried sitting in the pilot seat. Some visitors showed interest, asking journalists nearby where the plane was from.

The most likely country to buy T-50s is the host of the Air Show, UAE. Chief of the General Staff Haleed boarded the plane personally and said, “It is a very nice plane. I am very satisfied.”

The UAE is planning to move the T-50 to its air force base and assess its flying capabilities for two weeks. This is to closely evaluate the T-50’s possibility as a trainer plane for UAE pilot training, which will start in 2007. It is said that UAE is willing to purchase 60 T-50s.

The T-50 costs 23 billion to 25 billion per plane. It is pricier than its competitor’s, but superior in quality. The T-50’s strongest rival, Italy’s M-346, had malfunctions twice during flight tests. This incident gives Korea’s T-50 an advantage.

However, a KAI official said, “It is true that Korea does not have international recognition in the aerospace industry. Therefore, whether or not the T-50 will be sold will not be known until early next year. It is too early to celebrate.”

The ROKAF and KAI are also promoting T-50 to Israel and Greece. The T-50 is also undergoing modifications to turn it into an A-50 fighter jet.

Hyung-June Park lovesong@donga.com