(Feature) South Korean-made jets as PAF's next fighter aircraft?
July 16, 2012 11:38 am
By Priam F. Nepomuceno
MANILA, July 14 – South Korea's KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, a Mach 1.5 capable jet aircraft, has a very good chance of being the Philippine Air Force's next-generation fighter aircraft, according to a ranking security official.
"That plane offers us the most in terms of capability and cost," the official said on condition of anonymity.
The aircraft can also be fitted with heat-seeking missiles, 20mm to 25mm automatic cannon, various surveillance equipment and is very capable of undertaking the air-superiority role due to its sleek design.
"The other good thing about the TA-50 is that we will be buying it straight from the manufacturers. We will be its first-time users and not the second or third as in previous PAF aircraft acquisition," the security official added.
He also said getting replacement parts for the aircraft is easier as the TA-50 is still on initial production run for the South Korean Air Force.
Projected acquisition cost for the plane is between US$ 15 million and US$ 21 million per unit.
However, this could further be reduced due to close relations between the Philippines and South Korea.
"Once our senior defense officials give the green light for the TA-50, we are looking at the possibility of acquiring 12 to 18 units, which is enough for our minimum credible deterrent program," the official added.
The T-50 Golden Eagle design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.
KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the T-50.
The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.
The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 ft), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.
There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 U.S. gallons) — five in the fuselage and two in the wings.
An additional 1,710 liters (452 U.S. gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
T-50 trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The T-50 Golden Eagle uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system jointly developed by General Electric and Korea Aerospace Industries.
The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.
Other aircraft being eyed as the PAF's next fighter is the Alenia Aermacchi's M-311, which incidentally is just a derivative of the country's crash-plagued S-211 trainer jets.
The M-311 is a small tandem two-seat shoulder-wing monoplane with a retractable tricycle landing gear, powered by a single Pratt & Whitney Canada JT15D-5C turbofan.
As a basic trainer, the aircraft is designed to complement the Aermacchi M-346 advanced trainer.
The aircraft was designed with a secondary close air support capability with five underwing hardpoints for the carrying of guns, rockets, and missiles, and bomb.
The M-311 is barely sub-sonic as its maximum speed is only 495 miles and a service ceiling of only 40,000 feet.
Only two units have been built as of this time, making costing projection for this jet trainer difficult. (PNA)