MELBOURNE, Australia — Indonesia has signed a contract to buy more T-50 jet trainers made by Korea Aerospace Industries, and Thailand has indicated its desire to add to its inventory of the jets, marking continued success for the South Korean aircraft.
KAI made a filing to the Seoul stock exchange on July 20 announcing the sale of six more T-50i jet trainers to Indonesia, listing a contract value of $240 million. This would bring Indonesia’s fleet of T-50i advanced trainers to 20 aircraft, with 16 acquired in 2012 to replace its older BAE Systems Hawk 53 trainers dating from the 1980s that are currently operating in the advanced and lead-in fighter training role.
Deliveries of the T-50i began in 2014 and were completed in 2018, but two have subsequently been involved in accidents in 2015 and last August 2020.
The T-50i trainers were originally delivered without radars or armament, but the Southeast Asian country signed a contract with KAI in 2018 to retrofit radars and 20mm cannons to the fleet, with work due to end sometime this year.
The Indonesian Air Force is likely to use the new aircraft to progressively replace its fleet of BAE Hawk 109/209 trainers and light attack aircraft, which have been in service since the 1990s.
KAI has secured a number of export successes with its T-50 family of trainer and light combat aircraft, with the Philippines, South Korea and Thailand also operating the type in the region.
For its part, Thailand announced it wants to bolster its T-50 fleet, with the Royal Thai Air Force’s Directorate of Operations looking to buy two more T-50TH trainers.
Thailand already has 12 T-50TH aircraft in service or on order with KAI. The type is progressively replacing the service’s Aero Vodochody L-39 Albatross trainer. Thailand signed a contract with KAI in 2019 to upgrade the fleet’s radars and electronic warfare system.
Malaysia is also said to be considering the T-50 for its own Light Combat Aircraft program. The type was a contender for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer program, which was won by Boeing’s T-7 Red Hawk.
Mike Yeo is the Asia correspondent for Defense News.