South Korean military aircraft manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., (KAI) has finalized a $920 million contract to supply Malaysia with 18 FA-50 “Fighting Eagle” Block 20 light combat aircrafts (LCA)/fighter in-lead trainer (FLIT), a deal that carries potential for future expansion. The deal, which was concluded at the 2023 International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA), brings to an end three months of detailed discussions on the specifics of aircraft delivery and after-sales support. This followed the signing of a letter of acceptance (LOA) for the FA-50 export with the Malaysian Ministry of Defense. KAI officials said Malaysia is willing to order 18 more FA-50s later.
As part of the Industrial Collaboration Programme (ICP) with the government, 14 of the FA-50 Block 20 aircraft will undergo their final assembly in Malaysia. Another four of the fighter aircraft will be assembled in South Korea, KAI is expected to start delivering the fighter aircraft to Malaysia from October 2026. To get the “ball rolling” and fulfil Malaysia’s order, KAI will buy all the necessary raw materials and procure key components to be used on Malaysia’s version of the fighter aircraft. There is new equipment which KAI will put into, such as the radar, the refuelling system and the targeting pod integration to be done on the aircraft.
The FA-50, a multi-role aircraft modeled after the T-50 Golden Eagle advanced trainer aircraft, underscores KAI’s expanding global footprint in the aerospace industry. The Royal Malaysian Air Force and the Polish Air Force variant of FA-50 Block 20 will be equipped with new capabilities not found in any other variants, such as the “PhantomStrike” AESA radar developed by US firm, Raytheon, Chobham air-refuelling probe and “Sniper” advanced targeting pod (ATP), among others. The FA-50 can be externally fitted with Rafael’s Sky Shield or LIG Nex1’s ALQ-200K ECM pods or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter’s electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities.
The latest variant of the FA-50 is also capable of carrying precision-guided bombs and other cutting-edge weapons. Other improved weapon systems include SPICE multifunctional guidance kits, Textron CBU-97/105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon with WCMD tail kits, JDAM, JDAM-ER for more comprehensive air-to-ground operations, and AIM-120 missiles for BVR air-to-air operations. FA-50 has provisions for, but does not yet integrate, Python and Derby missiles, also produced by Rafael, and other anti-ship missiles, stand-off weapons, and sensors to be domestically developed by Korea. The South Korean military is reviewing whether to arm the FA-50 with a smaller version of the Taurus KEPD 350 missile to give it a stand-off engagement capability of 400 km (250 mi).