Malaysia signs contract for 18 new FA-50 light combat aircraft from South Korea


The KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle, these examples in service with the ROKAF. Photo c/o KAI.

The Malaysian Ministry of Defence has signed a contract with South Korean aviation company Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) on 24 February 2023 for the procurement of FA-50 light combat aircraft.

The contract was reported to be worth KRW1.2 trillion (US$920 million) which would see the delivery of 18 new FA-50 Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft to the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) and fulfil a requirement for new aircraft for use as light fighters and lead-in fighter trainers.

The deal is KAI's biggest ever single contract in Southeast Asia, and would make Malaysia the 4th country in the region to operate the T-50 Golden Eagle family of aircraft.

The RMAF will be receiving the latest variant of the FA-50 which includes an aerial refuelling capability and capability to carry an improved array of munitions compared to previous variants.

This also makes Malaysia the first market for this new variant, which is dubbed as FA-50 Block 20, which allows the carrying of Lockheed Martin's AN/AAQ-33 sniper targeting pod and Raytheon's AIM-120 AMRAAM beyond visual range air-to-air missile.

KAI won the selection process for the RMAF's light combat aircraft requirements which pitted the FA-50 Fighting Eagle against other similar aircraft models including the JF-17 Thunder from Pakistan, the MiG-35 Fulcrum from Russia, and Tejas from India, and the Hurjet from Turkey.

Reports confirmed that the FA-50 and the Tejas were shortlisted for final selection, with KAI's export record becoming a major factor in the selection of the Korean aircraft.

Malaysia is planning to procure a total of 36 new light combat aircraft as part of its Figher Lead In Trainer - Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT-LCA) Project to replace its fleet of MiG-29N/NUB Fulcrum fighters procured from Russia in the 1990s, as well as the Aermacchi MB.339 advanced trainer aircraft procured from Italy in the 1980s. 

The MiG-29s are already retired from service although the MB.339s are still operated by the RMAF.

The T-50 Golden Eagle family of light combat-capable trainer aircraft are already in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force, Iraqi Air Force, Philippine Air Force, Indonesian Air Force, Royal Thai Air Force, and has been ordered recently by Poland.

[1] Chosun Biz
[2] Flight Global
[3] The Korea Times

Malaysia signs contract for 18 new FA-50 light combat aircraft from South Korea Malaysia signs contract for 18 new FA-50 light combat aircraft from South Korea Reviewed by Asia Pacific Defense Journal on February 25, 2023 Rating: 5

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