|T-50/FA-50 Golden Eagle|
By Lee Chi-dong
SEOUL, July 13 (Yonhap) -- This year may prove to be a key turning point for South Korea's defense industry, as the country hopes to add arms to the list of its major export items.
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), a local defense giant, is bidding for the U.S. Air Force's program, called T-X, to replace its aging fleet of 350 T-38 trainer jets, a deal reportedly worth US$16 billion.
KAI is seeking to supply an upgraded version of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer jet developed in partnership with Lockheed Martin. The two firms formed a consortium for the offer of T-50A amid a fierce battle with the Boeing-Saab team.
The deal is expected to be awarded late this year, representing one of the biggest defense contracts in a decade.
"We are cautiously optimistic," a KAI official said, requesting anonymity. "In particular, our entrant has a competitive edge in price. Its performance has been already proven with more than 200 aircraft in operation."
The two-seat T-50 is currently used for training pilots in South Korea. It has been exported to Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand and the Philippines.
Global experts acknowledged the excellence of the plane itself.
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