The KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle is a family of South Korean supersonic light combat aircraft, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with Lockheed Martin. It is a light combat version of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft. The T-50 is South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world’s few supersonic trainers. The T-50 has been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. The F-50 single-seat multirole fighter variant was considered. The T-50B serves with the South Korean air force’s aerobatics team. The T-50A was marketed as a candidate for the United States Air Force’s next-generation T-X trainer program but failed to win. The FA-50, though highly maneuverable (it has a lower wing loading than the agile F-16, meaning can make tighter turns), is still not in the same league as top fourth-generation fighters. FA-50 costs around $30 to 35 million dollars, whereas those top-of-the-line fighters presently cost $70 to 100 million or more.
The FA-50, which made its first flight in 2011, adds greater fuel capacity and key avionics upgrades, including a radar-warning receiver to alert the pilot if he is being targeted by hostile radar, night-vision systems, and a data-link to integrate the airplane with friendly sensor and weapon platforms. The FA-50, which is based on the T-50 supersonic advanced trainer platform, is offered as an affordable and efficient supersonic advanced light attack platform. The combat aircraft is intended to meet the light fighter requirements of air forces around the world. The advanced radar provides the FA-50 with detection capability which is similar to that of the KF-16 fighter. The FA-50 measures 13.14m in length, 9.45m in width and 4.82m in height. The empty weight of the aircraft is 6.47t. The aircraft can take-off with a maximum gross weight of 12.3t.
The FA-50 aircraft can carry a weapons load of up to 4.5t. The aircraft can be armed with AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground tactical missiles (AGM), GBU-38/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapon (SFW), Mk-82 Low Drag General Purpose (LDGP) bombs and Cluster Bomb Units (CBUs). In air-to-air combat, the FA-50 still lacks the critical ability to fire beyond-visual range (BVR) missiles. The aircraft is also mounted with an internal, three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun and LAU-3/A 19-tube 2.75″ rocket launcher for firing Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR). The wide range of weapon systems aboard the FA-50 allows it to counter multiple threats in today’s complex battlefield scenario. In any case, until the FA-50 is certified for carrying medium- or long-range missile, it won’t really be up to the task of serving as an air-superiority fighter.
The tandem glass cockpit of the FA-50 can carry two crew members. It is equipped with wide field of view head-up display (HUD), colour multifunction displays (MFDs), digital engine instrumentation, Hands On Throttle-And-Stick (HOTAS), integrated up-front controls and zero-zero ejection seat. The flight control systems include digital fly-by-wire, active stick, electrical emergency power unit, digital break-by-wire and triple redundant electrical system.The cockpit also integrates an On-Board Oxygen Generation Systems (OBOGS). The Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS) aboard the aircraft ensures mission capability during day and night.The power-plant of the FA-50 aircraft integrates a General Electric F404-GE-102 turbofan engine developing 17,700lbf of thrust with afterburner. The engine’s performance is controlled by dual-channel Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system. The fuel is supplied from the internal fuel tanks. The aircraft can carry 568L of additional fuel in its external fuel tank. The power plant provides a maximum speed of 1,837.5km/h (Mach 1.5).