Aerial Warfare

South Korea and Malaysia Agree to Bolster Defense Industry

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South Korea and Malaysia Agree to Bolster Defense Industry

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Malaysia submits initial RFI for South Korea's FA-50 light fighter
South Korea's FA-50 light fighter aircraft

South Korea and Malaysia engaged in crucial defense discussions on Friday, aiming to strengthen their collaborative efforts in defense and the arms industry. The meeting, titled the Inaugural Defense Policy Coordination Meeting, took place in Kuala Lumpur, where Lee Seung-beom, the Director General for International Policy at the South Korean defense ministry, met with Mohd Yani Bin Daud, Deputy Secretary General at the Malaysian defense ministry. The talks centered on shared concerns over North Korea’s nuclear and missile program, prompting both nations to not only reaffirm their commitment to cybersecurity and joint drills but also to expand their cooperation in the arms industry.

The culmination of these discussions was the announcement on February 24, 2023, revealing a groundbreaking $920 million deal between Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and the Malaysian Ministry of Defence. The deal involves the purchase of 18 FA-50 Block 20 aircraft, designated for the Royal Malaysian Air Force’s light combat aircraft (LCA) and fighter in-lead trainer (FLIT) program, aimed at replacing the current Aermacchi MB-339 and Hawk Mk 108/208 models in service. As part of the agreement, the first batch of FA-50s is expected to be delivered in 2026, equipped with the advanced Raytheon PhantomStrike fire-control radar. Notably, Malaysia has expressed its willingness to order an additional 18 FA-50s in the future.

The FA-50 is a light combat aircraft manufactured by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF). It is a light combat version of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft. The indigenously developed KAI FA-50 light attack aircraft replaced the ROKAF’s ageing fighter fleet of F-5E/F and A-37 aircraft. 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. It can take-off with a maximum gross weight of 12.3t. The combat aircraft is intended to meet the light fighter requirements of air forces around the world. The advanced radar provides the FA-50 jet with detection capability, which is similar to that of the KF-16 fighter.

The FA-50 aircraft can carry a weapons load of up to 4.5t. 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 jet allows it to counter multiple threats in today’s complex battlefield scenario. 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).

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