Korean F-50 threatens Su-30 in Malaysia after downing an F-22

The South Korean aeronautical powerhouse, KAI, is driving its light combat aircraft, the F-50, into a new chapter of evolution. This aircraft is believed to be the combative variant of the training-focused FA-50. Speculation from European experts suggests that this aircraft aspires to capture approximately half of the Asian market.

Malaysia seeks light combat aircraft, Korean F-50 is a favorite
Photo credit: KAI

Malaysia might surface as the primary consumer, considering its current operation of the FA-50, and its continuous pursuit to replace their fleet of Russian Su-30. Amid intensifying economic sanctions on Russia and firms involved in Russian combat aircraft construction and maintenance, modernizing the Flanker fleet could pose a significant challenge. 

Within its home territory, Seoul has prioritized another local fighter, the technically superior KF-21 Boramae. As a result, large-scale F-50 acquisitions by the South Korean military appear improbable. According to Netherlands information sources, KAI is likely to shift towards international, especially Asian, markets with the single-seat F-50 expected to hit production lines by the end of this decade, approximately by 2028. 

Four Korean FA-50 light attackers may find a new home in West Africa
Photo credit: Pinterest

The ambitious goal is to sell 300 F-50s to nearby nations. According to current plans, the F-50’s aesthetics will mimic the FA-50 to a tee—with the co-pilot’s seat being replaced by an additional fuel tank and the inclusion of a refueling rod. 

KAI, along with global analysts, are optimistic about this approach. South Korea, Malaysia, the Philippines, and Poland are current operators of the advanced training aircraft model, the FA-50. Poland’s acquisition of 50 such units set the stage for industrial collaboration with KAI, introducing the potential to access the European market from countries with limited defense budgets. 

The FA-50 is shaping the image of the F-50—one even managed to come out on top in a recent mock battle against a U.S. stealth fighter, with an FA-50PH of the Philippine Air Force achieving to “shoot down” a USAF Raptor. 

Philippine FA-50PH shot down F-22 Raptor 'on the right turn'
Photo credit: Twitter

The South China Sea island nation, the Philippines, hosted state-of-the-art fighter jets for the first time, showcasing the prowess of the Korean FA-50. During the “Cope Thunder” exercise between the U.S. and the Philippines–a major event revived after 33 years–an FA-50 managed to “defeat” a USAF F-22 Raptor. 

As mentioned in a Philippine Air Force [PAF] journal entry, an unexpected victory was achieved. The declaration of the Filipino fighter pilot encapsulates their success in radio broadcasts, with the phrase, “Fox 2! Killed one Raptor on the right turn!” 

The journal further details this significant development, marking a critical moment in military history. The Filipinos’ leading Fighter Aircraft managed to outperform a 5th generation fighter jet in a mock air battle, held over Luzon within the context of the Cope Thunder Exercise. 

F-22 remains the US top pick against China despite upgrade costs
YouTube screenshot

The FA-50 is a lightweight combat aircraft developed by Korea Aerospace Industries [KAI] in collaboration with Lockheed Martin. It is a multirole fighter derivative of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainer and light combat aircraft. The FA-50, with its advanced avionics, is designed to carry out light attack and lead-in fighter training duties. 

The technical specifications of the FA-50 are indeed impressive. It has a length of 13.14 meters, a wingspan of 9.45 meters, and a height of 4.94 meters. The empty weight of the aircraft is approximately 6,470 kilograms, with a maximum takeoff weight of 12,300 kilograms. The aircraft’s internal fuel capacity is 2,655 liters, and it can be equipped with external fuel tanks to extend its range. 

The propulsion of the FA-50 is provided by a single General Electric F404-GE-102 turbofan engine. This engine, which is equipped with an afterburner, provides a maximum thrust of 78.7 kN. This allows the aircraft to reach a maximum speed of Mach 1.5, or approximately 1,837 kilometers per hour. 

Half Philippine fighters grounded, FA-50PH spare parts issues
Photo credit: European Post

The operational range of the FA-50 is around 1,851 kilometers without external fuel tanks. However, with the addition of external fuel tanks, the aircraft’s ferry range can be extended to 3,000 kilometers. The service ceiling of the FA-50 is approximately 14,630 meters, and it has a climb rate of 150 meters per second. 

In terms of armament, the FA-50 is equipped with a single 20mm M61A1 Vulcan cannon. It also has a total of seven hardpoints, which can carry a variety of weapons, including air-to-air missiles, air-to-surface missiles, and anti-ship missiles. The aircraft can also carry various types of bombs, including general-purpose bombs, cluster bombs, and laser-guided bombs. 

Maneuverability is a key indicator of a combat aircraft’s performance, and the FA-50 excels in this area. It has a maximum g-load of +8/-3 g, and its advanced avionics and flight control system allows it to perform a range of high-performance maneuvers. The aircraft’s high thrust-to-weight ratio also contributes to its excellent maneuverability.

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