MELBOURNE, Australia — Korea Aerospace Industries has won a competition to supply light attack aircraft to Malaysia, the company announced, marking its latest export for the line of trainer/light attack jets.
The South Korean company said the contract, worth $920 million, will see it deliver 18 FA-50 jets to the Southeast Asian country, with the first due for delivery in 2026.
The FA-50 beat the Tejas light combat aircraft, made by India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd., for the Malaysian requirement. The country had shortlisted the two types out of an initial field that included the JF-17, made by the Pakistan Aeronautical Complex, and the Russian-made MiG-35.
Malaysia is seeking to bolster its air combat and training capabilities as it seeks to replace its fleet of BAE Systems-made Hawk trainers and light combat aircraft, which has suffered from a high attrition rate in recent years.
The country also wants to replace 16 MiG-29 interceptors it retired in 2017 due to inadequate funding for sustainment. But a planned multirole combat aircraft program to replace the aircraft also stalled due to budget constraints.
Malaysia previously said it required 36 jets, meaning it will continue looking for an additional 18 aircraft.
The FA-50 is a combat-capable derivative of the T-50 Golden Eagle trainer, and the win in Malaysia will bring the number of Southeast Asian countries flying the T-50 and its derivatives to four. Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand also operate the aircraft type.
South Korea uses the T-50, TA-50 and FA-50. The latter two are combat-capable and can be fitted with up to seven external stores hardpoints that can carry air-to-air and precision-guided air-to-surface weapons.
The combat-capable versions are also integrated with American-made or Israeli-built radars, with KAI seeking to integrate newer and more capable radars in future block upgrades.
Iraq also operates a version of the FA-50 it calls the T-50IQ, while Poland has selected 48 FA-50s as part of a large military package with South Korea. The European nation sought to replace its Soviet-era MiG-29 and Su-22 jets in the wake of the Russian invasion of Ukraine.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.