Saturday, September 26, 2009

T-50 Competing for Singapore Trainer Requirement

Singapore Airshow

Defense News


T-50 Competing for Singapore Trainer Requirement

By Wendell Minnick

Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries are confident they will win the Republic of Singapore Air Force (RSAF) requirement for a new advanced jet trainer (AJT).

Singapore issued a Request for Information in 2007 to select defense companies with a deadline at the end of the year. Singapore is expected to submit a Request for Proposals by the end of 2008 with a final decision expected to be announced in the 2009 or 2010 timeframe.

J.R. Wildridge, Lockheed Martin's T-50 marketing director, said here in Singapore that the T-50 offers a cost-effective bridge from primary training to high performance fighters.

"The T-50 is relatively easy to fly in terms of airframe design, digital flight controls, and on-board systems," Wildridge said. It includes embedded training features, a mission planning and debriefing system, as well as a comprehensive ground-based training system."

The T-50 is a joint development of Lockheed Martin Aeronautics and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to produce a supersonic lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT). It is designed to allow for air forces to transition from fourth generation fighters like the F-16 to fifth generation fighters like the F-35 and F-22, said Wildridge.

Currently, the Korean air force has begun using the 20 T-50s delivered for instructor pilot training. Plans are to deliver a total of 72 T-50s to the Korean air force for AJT and LIFT. Lockheed Martin also said that Korea was planning to procure around 60 FA-50s for the air force. The FA-50 is a light attack variant for close air support and reconnaissance. The FA-50 development program is expected to begin in late this year, said Wildridge.

Lockheed would say little about the procurement battle.

"We just started the process on how they want to proceed. We flew the aircraft here last year for a demonstration," said Wildridge. Potential markets include Southeast Asia, Europe and the Middle East. The U.S. air force is also a potential market with the replacement of T-38s, he said.

Alex Jun, vice president, KAI Aircraft marketing, stated that "we responded completely with their RFI. That's all I can say at this time."

Jun stated there "always are co-production options" and that all offsets requirements were addressed in the RFI. "As for unit price we are confident. We are looking at the overall costs of training a student."

Jun pointed to potential modifications to the aircraft that allow for more options for the customer. "The aircraft has the potential to accommodate larger engines in the future," he said. "We are going to propose a generic weapons system that can be tailored to the customers needs."