MELBOURNE, Australia — Thailand’s military government has approved the acquisition of eight KAI T-50 Golden Eagle lead-in fighter trainers from South Korea, adding to four aircraft it acquired in 2015.
Prime Minister Prayuth Chan-ocha announced the decision during a media conference today, with the cost of the acquisition reported to be $258 million, which will be paid over a three-year period, according to Air Vice Marshal Pongsak Semachai.
Designated T-50TH, the aircraft will start to replace the Royal Thai Air Force’s fleet of 40 Aero Vodochody L-39ZA/ART Albatros in the training and combat roles, with the first four aircraft expected to be delivered by March 2018.
According to specifications released earlier by KAI, the T-50TH will be fully combat capable, being fitted with fire control radar — expected to be the Elbit EL/M-2032 — MIL-STD-1760 databus and will have provision for the Link 16 data link.
KAI has also delivered the last 12 FA-50PH light attack aircraft to the Philippines earlier in July, noting in a news release that it took place three months earlier than scheduled.
The jets were ordered under a $415 million contract in 2014 with deliveries beginning in late 2015 and have already been employed in airstrikes against Islamic State-linked militants holed up inside a town in the south of the country.
The reports of the delivery of the FA-50PHs, which are a dedicated light attack variant of the T-50, comes as the Philippine Defense Secretary Delfin Lorenzana told local media that the military had sent a Lockheed-Martin C-130 Hercules transport aircraft to the United States to pick up additional munitions for its aircraft.
He did not disclose the type of munitions delivered, although Defense News understands that it includes Raytheon AGM-65G2 Maverick air-to-surface missiles. A FA-50PH was seen carrying a pair of inert Mavericks during a parade at Clark Airbase near Manila, the capital of the Philippines, commemorating the Philippine Air Force's 70th anniversary July 7.
KAI has found success in filling a niche market for its T-50 family in countries that require a light attack capability in addition to the advanced or lead-in fighter role, with Indonesia and Iraq joining the Philippines and Thailand as export users of the type.
The latter two countries have already indicated that they are seeking to acquire more aircraft to meet their respective requirements, while KAI is also partnering with Lockheed Martin in offering the T-50A, which is based on the FA-50, to the U.S. Air Force for its T-X program to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon trainer.