South Korea entered the Slovakian jet trainer tender with a bang, offering 10 FA-50 light fighter jets.

The purchase of the aircraft is due to be discussed on November 4, 2021, as South Korea’s president Moon Jae-in visits Budapest, Hungary, for a meeting with Slovakian, Chechian, Hungarian and Polish leaders.

The Korea Herald reports that the deal is expected to be worth $500 million.

According to the South Korean Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA), Korea Aviation Industries (KAI), the manufacturer of the FA-50, will also sign a memorandum of understanding (MOU) with Slovakian aviation company LOTN, and discuss the details of the possible jet acquisition.

The Slovak Ministry of Defense announced a competition for an advanced jet trainer in October 2020. The new aircraft will replace the Slovak Air Force’s ageing L-39 Albatros trainers. In 2018, the country signed a contract with Lockheed Martin to purchase 14 F-16 Block 70/72 fighter jets. The new trainers are expected to help Slovak pilots to transition to new high-performance aircraft.

Initially, it was announced that Leonardo M-345 and M-346, BAE Systems Hawk and Aero Vodochody L-39NG would participate in the tender. All are subsonic jet trainers and light combat aircraft. 

The FA-50 is a supersonic Mach 1.5 light fighter jet based on the T-50 trainer and designed specifically with combat use in mind. The aircraft was acquired by the South Korean Air Force and the Philippine Air Force in its fighter jet form, as well as by numerous other air forces in the T-50 trainer variant.

Currently, the Slovak Air Force operates 10 MiG-29 fighter jets, some of which were inherited from the Czechoslovak Air Force. Others were purchased from Russia in the 1990s. The aircraft have been upgraded to AS and UBS standards and are actively participating in various NATO activities.

Lockheed Martin is expected to deliver the first batch of new F-16s to Slovakia in early 2023, and complete the delivery of 14 jets by early 2024.