Korean Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle
T-50 first prototype 001 at the formal rollout.
Main Role: Advanced Trainer/Light Attack
Country of Origin: South Korea Current Status: In Development
Although increasingly well known for it's ships, cars and consumer electronics goods, South Korea also possesses a thriving aerospace industry. An industry which cut its teeth on component manufacture and licenced production has now produced its second Korean-designed aircraft, the T-50 Golden Eagle. That this aircraft should be a supersonic combat aircraft demonstrates the breadth of South Korea's capability and the extent of its ambition.
Korean Air Lines (KAL) was the first company in South Korea to be involved in aerospace, establishing facilities in 1979 to carry out depot level maintenance of USAF aircraft based in South Korea and the Pacific. Daewoo, Hyundai and Samsung established similar capabilities soon afterwards. In 1981, KAL was contracted to assemble the Northrop F-5E Tiger IIs ordered by the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF). Korean industry subsequently won contracts to produce a wide range of components and sub-assemblies for Airbus, Boeing, Bombardier and Lockheed Martin - amongst others - and won praise for the high quality of workmanship evident in the delivered items. In 1988, development of South Korea's first locally-designed aircraft, the Daewoo KT-1 Woong-Bee was initiated. This PC-9 look-alike turboprop trainer first flew in 1991 and entered service with the RoKAF in 2000. In the meantime, Samsung was awarded prime contractor status in the Korean Fighter Programme, under which 108 F-16s were licenced-built for the RoKAF. The contract specified extensive technology transfer to Korean industry, resulting in the last 72 aircraft being wholly built in South Korea.
In 1992, initial design studies were launched by South Korea's Defence Development Agency and Samsung into the development of an indigenous jet trainer/light attack aircraft to replace the T-38, Hawk and F-5 in RoKAF service. The designation KTX-2 (Korean Trainer, Experimental 2) was assigned to the project. Substantial input into the design was made by General Dynamics (later taken over by Lockheed Martin) under the offset agreement negotiated for the F-16 contract.
In mid 1995 the basic external layout was agreed, but the project stalled at the end of the year as the gathering Asian Financial Crisis mean that available government funding could not now cover the remainder of the project - a foreign partner was essential to carry on. Several major aerospace companies showed interest, but none proved willing to invest their own money. Eventually, Lockheed Martin took the decision to upgrade its existing involvement from that of design consultant to full partner. On 3 July 1997, the South Korean government approved continuation of the project. Later in July, Lockheed Martin signed a formal agreement with Samsung under which it took responsibility for the Fly-By-Wire flight control system, avionics integration, wing design and supply of the APG-167 radar.
In October 1997, the contract to build and test six prototypes was received - including two static test airframes. Detailed design was now able to proceed rapidly and in August 1999 the external shape of the KTX-2 was frozen, allowing manufacturing drawings to start being released.
As part of the country's economic reforms, Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) was formed in October 1999 from the amalgamation of the aerospace divisions of Samsung, Daewoo and Hyundai. The other major South Korean aerospace manufacturer, Korean Air Lines remained outside of the main industry grouping.
In February 2000 it was announced that the KTX-2 had been renamed the T-50/A-50 Golden Eagle. The T-50 Golden Eagle designation being applied to an Advanced Jet Training variant, and A-50 Golden Eagle to an armed Light Attack/Fighter Lead In Trainer variant. Final assembly of the first T-50 prototype began on 15 January 2001, and it was formally rolled out on 31 October 2001. The maiden flight was achieved on 20 August 2002, with flight testing continuing until mid 2005.
The Golden Eagle bears a close resemblance to the F-16 - not really surprising when you consider its origins and the intended role of training RoKAF pilots to fly the F-16 - although it is actually about 80% the size of an F-16. Several design features are shared with its bigger brother, the most noticeable of which is the blended mid-set wing, complete with leading edge root extensions (LERX) and rear 'shelf' fairings ending in F-16-style split airbrakes. Sweepback is only applied to the wing leading edge, and missile launch rails are located at the wing tips. In a departure from F-16 influence, the engine air intakes are located at the fuselage sides, just below the wing LERX in a similar manner to those on the F/A-18.
The two crew sit in a tandem stepped cockpit equipped with two large Multi-Function Displays (MFDs), a modern wide-angle Head-Up Display (HUD) and full hands on throttle and stick (HOTAS) controls. The Lead In Fighter Trainer and Attack variants will be equipped with a Lockheed Martin APG-167 radar in the nose and a M61 20 mm cannon in the port wing root. The incorporation of many of the latest-technology but 'off the shelf' components and systems within the design is intended to deliver a capable but efficient, reliable and easy to maintain aircraft.
The Golden Eagle already has a production order for 50 T-50 trainers and 44 A-50 Fighter Lead In trainers from the RoKAF. Further domestic orders may follow, to allow replacement of the F-5 and F-4 in RoKAF service. The type also has obvious export potential - particularly among the ever growing number of F-16 operators. It's manoeuvrability and advanced systems are designed to prepare future pilots to fly the next generation fighters such as the Eurofighter Typhoon, Dassault Rafale and Lockheed Martin F-35, while its combat capability allows dual-role adaptability. Potential rivals, such as the EADS Mako and Aermacchi M-346 have yet to secure any orders, while the class-leading but slow-selling BAE SYSTEMS Hawk may have reached the limit of its development potential. With the marketing clout of Lockheed Martin behind it, the future of the Golden Eagle is sure to be bright. http://www.aeroflight.co.uk/types/korea/kai/t-50/T-50.htmhttps://www.koreaaero.com/