Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and the Malaysian Ministry of Defense have signed a contract for 18 KAI FA-50 light fighter jets.
The aircraft was selected during the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) light combat aircraft (LCA) tender, where it competed against Indian’s HAL Tejas, Turkey’s TAI Hurjet, China’s Catic L-15, Italy’s Leonardo M-346 and Russia’s MiG-35.
Earlier reports indicated that the Pakistani-Chinese JF-17 Thunder, the United States-made Boeing T-7A red Hawk, the Czech Aero Vodochy L-39N and the Russian Yakovlev Yak-130 were also considered but did not participate in the competition.
The 1.2 trillion-won ($920 million) deal is set to see the aircraft modified with aerial refueling equipment and extensive weaponry upgrades, enabling the jet to carry a range of smart munitions and targeting pods.
The first aircraft are scheduled to be delivered by 2026, KAI noted in a press release, adding that with this deal KAI has now sold 222 aircraft based on the T-50 advanced trainer platform, including FA-50 fighter jets.
Besides the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), which operates 60 T-50s and FA-50s, the jet has also been purchased by Indonesia, Iraq, the Philippines and Thailand.
In July 2022 Poland became the largest foreign customer of the FA-50, ordering 48 jets that will reportedly start to be delivered in mid-2023.
The bulk of the RMAF’s fighter jet fleet is currently composed of Russian Sukhoi Su-30MKM fighter jets. Malaysia also operates a small number of Boeing F/A-18D Hornet jets and BAE Hawk trainers that were modified to carry out combat missions.