KAI T-50 Golden Eagle

The KAI T-50 Golden Eagle is a family of South Korean supersonic advanced trainers and multirole light fighters, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with the American aerospace company 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 F-50 is another advanced fighter variant being considered. 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 variant. The T-50 is also being marketed as a candidate for the United States Air Force's next-generation T-X trainer programme. Thailand ordered 4 units of the T-50 advanced trainer variant.

KAI T-50 Golden Eagle
Class Aircraft
Type Fighter
Manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries
Origin South Korea
Country Name Origin Year
South Korea 2002
Country Name Operational Year Retirement Year
Indonesia View
Iraq View
Philippines View
South Korea 2005 View
ManufacturerName Production From Production To Quantity
Korea Aerospace Industries 2001 82 View

The T-50 program was originally intended to develop an indigenous trainer aircraft capable of supersonic flight, to train and prepare pilots for the KF-16 and F-15K, replacing trainers such as T-38 and A-37 that were then in service with the ROKAF. Prior South Korean aircraft programs include the turboprop KT-1 basic trainer produced by Daewoo Aerospace (now part of KAI), and license-manufactured KF-16. In general, the T-50 series of aircraft closely resembles the KF-16 in configuration.

The mother program, code-named KTX-2, began in 1992, but the Ministry of Finance and Economy suspended KTX-2 in 1995 due to financial constraints. The basic design of the aircraft was set by 1999. The development of the aircraft was funded 70% by the South Korean government, 17% by KAI, and 13% by Lockheed Martin.

The aircraft was formally designated as the T-50 Golden Eagle in February 2000. The T-50A designation was reserved by the U.S. military to prevent it from being inadvertently assigned to another aircraft model. Final assembly of the first T-50 took place between 15 January and 14 September 2001. The first flight of the T-50 took place in August 2002, and initial operational assessment from 28 July to 14 August 2003.

KAI and Lockheed Martin are currently pursuing a joint marketing program for the T-50 internationally. The ROKAF placed a production contract for 25 T-50s in December 2003, with aircraft scheduled to be delivered between 2005 and 2009. Original T-50 aircraft are equipped with the AN/APG-67(v)4 radar from Lockheed Martin. The T-50 is equipped with a GE F404 engine with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) built under license by Samsung Techwin. Under the terms of the T-50/F404-102 co-production agreement, GE provides engine kits directly to Samsung Techwin who produces designated parts as well as performing final engine assembly and testing.

Republic of Korea

In 2011, the first squadron with the TA-50, the T-50's light attack variant, become operational with the ROKAF. The ROKAF's Black Eagles aerobatic team operates the T-50B version. In 2014, the FA-50 was officially deployed to the ROKAF with President Park Geun-hye officially leading the ceremony of which a flight demonstration was held showing its capabilities. 20 FA-50's was assigned its own Air Force wing. 60 FA-50's were ordered by ROKAF. On 9 October 2014, an FA-50 successfully test fires an AGM-65 Maverick on a stationary target, a retired ship.


Indonesia had been considering the T-50, along with four other aircraft to replace its BAE Hawk Mk 53 trainer and OV-10 Bronco attack aircraft. In August 2010, Indonesia announced that T-50, Yak-130 and L-159 were the remaining candidates for its requirement for 16 advanced jet trainers. In May 2011, Indonesia signed a contract to order 16 T-50 aircraft for US$400 million. The aircraft is to feature weapons pylons and gun modules, enabling light attack capabilities. The Golden Eagles are to replace the Hawk Mk 53 in Indonesian Air Force service. Indonesia's version has been designated T-50i. Deliveries began in September 2013. The last pair of T-50i aircraft were delivered in January 2014.


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 on the acquisition of 24 aircraft of the T-50IQ variant plus additional equipment and pilot training over the next 20 years. The first delivery will occur in April 2016, with all aircraft to be delivered over the next 12 months.


The Philippine Air Force chose 12 KAI TA-50 aircraft to fulfill its requirement for a light attack and lead-in fighter trainer aircraft. The Department of National Defense (DND) announced the selection of the type in August 2012. Funding for 12 aircraft was approved by Congress on September 2012, but by late January 2013, state media reported that the FA-50, not the TA-50 as previously reported, was selected for the 12-aircraft procurement.

In October 2013, the President Aquino said the DND was close to finalizing the FA-50 deal, and on 19 October 2013, President Aquino and President Park Geun-hye of South Korea signed a memorandum of understanding (MoU) with provisions for acquisitions. On 13 February 2014, President Aquino approved the payment scheme for purchasing 12 lead-in fighter trainers with P18.9 billion ($415.7 million) budgeted. On 28 March 2014, the Philippines' Department of National Defense signed a contract for 12 FA-50 light attack aircraft worth P18.9 billion (US$421.12 million). The first two FA-50s are planned to be delivered 18 months after contract signing. Deliveries are to finish in 2017. Plans for 3 to 4 out of 12 units are to be fitted with BVR of unknown type. In March 2015, Stockholm International Peace Research Institute (SIPRI) reported that the Philippines plans to order additional FA-50s.

Possible sales

The Spanish Air Force is interested in a cooperation agreement with South Korea for use of training aircraft, including the T-50.

The United Arab Emirates (UAE) is seeking 35–40 fighter-trainers. In February 2009, UAE selected the M-346 over the T-50. But in January 2010, the UAE reopened the trainer contest.[98] In 2011, it was confirmed that T-50 was still competing for the UAE purchase.

In the U.S., South Korea will attempt to sell T-50s and buy F-35s. The T-50 is one of the contenders for the U.S. Air Force's T-X program, with an opportunity to export 300 to 1,000 aircraft.

Thailand has requested information from KAI regarding its TA-50 and FA-50 variants. The Chilean Air Force might have a sale with KAI about the aircraft. Also, Botswana sees as a possible costumer. Azerbaijan has expressed interest in purchasing T-50 trainers. Brunei has expressed interest in the FA-50.

South Korea also plans to offer the FA-50 to Colombia and Peru.

Pakistan Air Force is considering purchase of the South Korean KAI T-50 Lead In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) to revamp its Air Force training program.

Failed bids

Singapore evaluated the T-50 against the Italian Alenia Aermacchi M-346 and the BAE Systems Hawk for a $500 million trainer acquisition program contract for 12–16 aircraft. The Singapore Ministry of Defense eventually selected the M-346 aircraft ahead of T-50 and BAE Hawk in July 2010.

Israel had been evaluating the T-50 as a possible replacement for its Douglas TA-4H Skyhawk trainers since 2003. On 16 February 2012, Israel announced its decision to procure thirty M-346 instead.

Role Advanced trainer, multirole fighter
Manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (with technical support from Lockheed Martin)
First flight 20 August 2002
Introduction 22 February 2005
Status In service
Primary users Republic of Korea Air Force
Indonesian Air Force
Philippine Air Force
Iraqi Air Force
Produced 2001–present
Number built 82
Unit cost T-50: US$21 million (2008)
TA-50: US$25 million (2011)
FA-50: US$30 million (2012)

General characteristics

  • Crew: 2
  • Length: 13.14 m (43.1 ft)
  • Wingspan: 9.45 m (31 ft) (with wingtip missiles)
  • Height: 4.94 m (16.2 ft)
  • Wing area: (23.69 m²)
  • Empty weight: 6,470 kg (14,285 lb)
  • Max takeoff weight: 12,300 kg (27,300 lb)
  • Powerplant: 1× General Electric F404 (built under license by Samsung Techwin) afterburning turbofan
  • Dry thrust: 53.07 kN (11,925 lbf)
  • Thrust with afterburner: 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf)


  • Maximum speed: 1,640 km/h, 1,020 mph at 9,144 m or 30,000 ft (Mach 1.5)
  • Range: 1,851 km (1,150 mi)
  • Service ceiling: 14,630 m (48,000 ft)
  • Rate of climb: 11,887 m/min (39,000 ft/min)
  • Thrust/weight: 0.96
  • Max g limit: -3 g / +8 g


  • Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) General Dynamics A-50 3-barrel rotary cannon
  • Hardpoints: Total of 7 with x4 underwing x2 wingtip and one under fuselage; holding up to 8,250 lbs (3,740 kg) of payload
  • Rockets:
    Hydra 70
  • Missiles:
  • Air-to-air:
    AIM-9 Sidewinder
    AIM-120 AMRAAM
  • Air-to-ground:
    AGM-65 Maverick
  • Bombs:
    Mk 82
    Mk 83
    CBU-97/105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon
    Spice-equipped bombs
    JDAM-equipped bombs


  • AN/APG-67 (T-50)
  • EL/M-2032 (TA-50 and FA-50)
  • Lockheed Martin Advanced Avionics

Note: armament for TA-50 and FA-50 only.

End notes