The FA-50 is a South Korean-made light combat aircraft. The Philippines wants to buy 12 of the jets to respond to territorial disputes with China. (Korea Aerospace Industries)
Philippine President Benigno Aquino, right, his South Korean counterpart Park Geun-hye greet children waving the two countries' national flags during an Oct. 17 welcoming ceremony in Seoul. / Ahn Young-joon / AFP
SEOUL — South Korea is set to export its light combat aircraft to the Philippines, as the leaders of both countries agreed to bolster cooperation in the defense industry.
President Park Geun-hye and her Philippine counterpart Benigno Aquino III signed a memorandum of understanding that calls for greater cooperation in the arms industry as part of efforts to further cement economic ties between the two nations.
“President Park expressed gratitude for Manila’s selection of the FA-50 as the candidate for the Philippine jet acquisition program, and she hoped that a final contract would be signed at an early date,” a presidential spokesman said.
Aquino replied that he would try to seal the relevant contract, according to the spokesman.
Seoul and Manila have been negotiating the export of the FA-50, a light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer aircraft jointly developed by Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).
The FA-50 is armed with air-to-air, air-to-surface missiles and machine guns, as well as precision-guided bombs, such as joint direct-attack munitions and sensor-fused weapons. Fitted with Israel Elta System’s EL/M-2032 PULSE Doppler radar with a range of 100 kilometers, the jet is suitable for close-air support missions.
Indonesia was the first customer of the FA-50 variant with a 2011 order for 16 T-50i planes. KAI delivered four T-50i aircraft to the Indonesian air force last month.
With a budget of about $450 million, the Philippines wants to purchase 12 FA-50s to respond to potential territorial disputes with China. Manila has no fighter aircraft available after the retirement of F-5s in 2005.
On top of the export of the FA-50, Park and Aquino agreed to facilitate the sales of other defense goods, including naval ships and armored vehicles, according to the presidential office.
“It is no secret that the Philippines can’t defend its long coastline only with 120 naval ships,” said Park’s spokesman, quoting Aquino. “South Korean defense goods are very useful for the Philippines, which has similar security environment.”