A sophisticated supersonic jet trainer that can also be used as a light offensive strike fighter when necessary is the South Korean KAI T-50 Golden Eagle.

The T-50/A-50 “Golden Eagle” is a cutting-edge supersonic trainer and light strike-capable aircraft platform built jointly by the American company Lockheed Martin and the South Korean company Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI). The final design is a heavily modified variant of the F-16 “Fighting Falcon” from Lockheed Martin (previously General Dynamics), which KAI license-builds as the “KF-16.” Limited quantities of the Golden Eagle twin-seat trainer have been purchased by the South Korean Air Force.

The South Korean Air Force’s T-50 series was created to replace a number of functional but aged platforms. A next-generation advanced trainer capable of training a new generation of fighter pilots, particularly those who may end up in the cockpits of the Lockheed F-22 Raptor, Lockheed F-35 Lightning II, French Dassault Rafale, and the European consortium Eurofighter Typhoon aircraft, was ensured by Lockheed Martin’s involvement, which is perhaps more important. The T-50, like the F-16 Fighting Falcon before it, is equipped with a single turbofan engine from the General Electric F404 series, a single big-area vertical tail fin, and a wide glass canopy with seating for two pilots. The two collaborating companies each contributed a portion of the development expenditures for the system, with all other expenses being covered by the South Korean government. On August 20, 2002, the prototype made its first flight record. Prior to getting back on track, the entire F-50 program experienced financial problems. On February 22nd, 2002, the T-50 was formally put into service. Since then, starting in 2013, it has also been accepted by the Indonesian Air Force (16 aircraft – 12 T-50s and 4 x TA-50s). As of this writing, the T-50 aircraft are still being produced. Production started in 2001. (2013). A total of 102 aircraft are under South Korea’s management, including 50 T-50s, 10 T-50Bs, 22 TA-50s, and 20 FA-50s (the latter on order as of 2013).

T-50A avion de chasse

Although the concept was initially projected to reach speeds of up to Mach 1.5, first evaluations during development showed that the aircraft exceeded Mach 1.0. The engine has full afterburning capabilities, allowing the aircraft to reach a top speed of 1,100 mph at a height of 10,000 feet. The service ceiling is 48,000 feet, and the operational range is 1,150 miles. For precise handling, digital fly-by-wire technology with triple redundancy and dual controls accessible from both cockpits is used (as the T-50 can be utilized as an attack airframe or advanced trainer). The co-pilot/instructor sits at the back of the cockpit while the primary pilot/student occupies the front. The T-50’s avionics include the EL/M-2032 advanced pulse Doppler fire control radar and the AN/APG-67 pulse Doppler radar (for the TA-50 and FA-50 marks).

The “Golden Eagle” is offered as an advanced trainer with the model number T-50, as a “fighter lead-in” platform with the model number TA-50, and as a derivative with light strike capability with the model number FA-50. The primary way that these aircraft differ from one another is in the internal systems that have been fitted to fulfill the desired mission role. The FA-50 is built for day and night missions, whereas the trainer lacks an internal cannon and sophisticated radar. The TA-50 is a hybrid design that combines the uses of both types of aircraft. There is seating for two in all variations. The 53rd Air Demonstration Group’s eight-aircraft South Korean “Black Eagles” are represented by the highly specialized, high performance T-50B aerobatic demonstration.

The Golden Eagle can be equipped with a variety of conventional bombs for the armed strike role depending on the needs of the operation. Rail-launchers for the AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missile are given together with a standard internal 20mm General Dynamics A-50 gatling gun (a three-barreled version of the M61 Vulcan) for close-in work. The aircraft can also be equipped with a variety of underwing weapons and external fuel tanks. AGM-65 Maverick and other air-to-surface missiles are among the ordnance possibilities, along with unguided rocket pods, general-purpose drop bombs, cluster bombs, and precision-guided drop bombs. Israel and Singapore both showed little interest in South Korea’s T-50 mount. Possible sales to Chile, the Philippines, and Botswana are indicated.

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