Malaysia pays 18 KAI FA-50 light combat aircraft with palm oil
KUALA LUMPUR, MALAYSIA — The winner of the tender for 18 Royal Malaysian Air Force [RMAF] Light Attack Aircraft [LCA] has been announced. The winner of the tender with a budget of about 900 million dollars, for which six companies submitted bids, is the South Korean company KAI.
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A $919 million contract was signed between KAI and the Malaysian Ministry of Defense for the supply of the FA-50 light combat aircraft. According to the contract, deliveries of the aircraft should begin in 2026.
On the other hand, South Korea aims to sell another 18 FA-50s to Malaysia in the future. Malaysia announced that at least half of the payment would be made in palm oil.
In 2021, the companies that submitted their bids for the Malaysian Air Force Light Attack Aircraft tender and their products were as follows: KAI/Kemalak Systems: FA-50, TAI Hurjet, Hongdu L-15, Leonardo M-346, Hindustan Aeronautics Tejas and Rosoboronexport MiG-35.
The requirements of the Malaysian Air Force for the tender were the phased delivery of 36 aircraft between the signing of the contract, the ability to reload the aircraft, as well as equipping them with beyond-visual-range missiles. The other two requirements were supersonic speed and the possibility of industrial cooperation. The latter condition concerned 30% of the aircraft’s parts to be produced locally.
The FA-50PH was developed on the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer. Its production began in 2001. To date, just over 200 units of this aircraft have been produced. As strange as it sounds, the FA-50PH is the world’s best-selling combat aircraft and one of the best-selling light attack aircraft in the world.
South Korea is believed to have 60 units of this aircraft. It is being developed by Korea Aerospace Industries [KAI] and Lockheed Martin. Depending on the customer, a specific version is developed.
The aircraft is powered by one General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan engine [built under license by Samsung Techwin], 53.07 kN [11,930 lbf] thrust dry, 78.7 kN [17,700 lbf] with afterburner. The maximum flight speed is Mach 1.5. Its thrust/weight is 0.96.
Armament for close air combat is one 20 mm [0.787 in] General Dynamics A-50 3-barrel rotary cannon, 205 rounds. Often the air-to-air missile in the aircraft’s armament is the AIM-120 AMRAAM. The air-to-ground missile is a Naval Strike Missile, but the manufacturer plans for the next aircraft to be armed with the German-made KEPD 350K-2. The plane was also loaded with several bombs.
Problems with spare parts
South Korean company KAI questioned the combat capability of the Philippine Air Force late last year. In September, the Philippines announced that half of its FA-50PHs were grounded. At that time, only three aircraft were actually operationally ready. The main problem – is the shortage of spare parts.
It then became clear that the Philippine FA-50PHs had reached certain operating hours and scheduled maintenance was scheduled. But the manufacturer has not been able to supply spare parts for the planes. Even then, there were doubts that customers of South Korean light attack aircraft around the world would also experience problems with spare parts. Indonesia, Iraq, South Korea, Thailand, and Colombia currently fly the FA-50PH. Soon Poland will also join these operators as they made a purchase of this trainer aircraft last year.
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