The Iraqi Ministry of Defence (MoD) announced on 22 June that one of the Iraqi Air Force’s Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) T-50 jet trainer/light combat aircraft had taken off for the first time at Martyr Muhammad Alaa Air Base next to Baghdad’s international airport. Iraq was negotiating the acquisition of T-50 trainer jets, having first publicly expressed official interest during the Korea–Iraq summit in Seoul on 24 February 2009. In April 2010, Iraq reopened the jet lead-in fighter-trainer competition for 24 aircraft, in which TA-50 competed. In December 2013, it was announced that Iraq signed a contract for 24 aircraft of the FA-50 variant designated T-50IQ, plus additional equipment and pilot training over the next 20 years. Deliveries were to begin in April 2016, with all aircraft to be delivered over the next 12 months.
The KAI T-50 Golden Eagle is a family of South Korean supersonic advanced jet trainers and light combat aircraft, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with Lockheed Martin. The T-50 is South Korea’s first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world’s few supersonic trainers. Development began in the late 1990s, and its maiden flight occurred in 2002. The aircraft entered active service with the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) in 2005. The T-50 has been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. The T-50B serves with the South Korean air force’s aerobatics team. The TA-50 light attack variant has been ordered by Indonesia. The Philippines ordered 12 units of the FA-50 light fighter variant. 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. Thailand ordered 12 units of the T-50 advanced trainer variant.
The T-50 Golden Eagle design is largely derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have some similarities. KAI’s previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for T-50 development. The trainer has seating for two pilots in a tandem arrangement. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots good visibility. The trainer has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against 4-lb objects impacting at 400 knots. The altitude limit is 14,600 metres (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 litres (701 US gal), five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 litres (452 US gal) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
The TA-50 version has a three-barrel cannon version of the M61 Vulcan mounted internally behind the cockpit, which fires linkless 20 mm ammunition. Wingtip rails can accommodate the AIM-9 Sidewinder missile, and a variety of additional weapons can be mounted to underwing hardpoints. Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick missile, Hydra 70 and LOGIR rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, ?83, and ?84 general-purpose bombs. The FA-50 can be externally fitted with Rafael’s Sky Shield or LIG Nex1’s ALQ-200K ECM pods, Sniper or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter’s electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities.