South Korean jet trainer sale edges closer

April 19, 2011 at 11:19 AM
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SEOUL, April 19 (UPI) -- South Korea is moving closer to a deal to supply Indonesia with T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic training aircraft.

The South Korean Ministry of National Defense reported progress on a deal with Indonesia naming Korea Aerospace Industries, a government-run entity, as the preferred bidder for the procurement.

Indonesia intends to buy 16 trainer aircraft.

"Now that we have been selected as the preferred bidder, real negotiations on price and other terms will begin," Defense Ministry spokesman Kim Min-seok said.

If the deal goes through it will be South Korea's first export of the jets.

Indonesia has been looking to replace its fleet of training jets and Jakarta short-listed the T-50s last year with two other planes -- the YAK-13 from Russia and L-159 from the Czech Republic.

T-50 jets are being used as training advanced combat fighter pilots at South Korean air bases. Experts say that flying time and the cost of training will be reduced by 20 and 30 percent, respectively, while pilots' flying capabilities are going to be enhanced by 40 percent with a use of T-50 compared to previous training jets.

"Our T-50 jets have been selected as a subject of the deal under fierce bidding competition against powers of exporting training jets because Korean jets have shown excellence in terms of modern technology, flying safety and various combat skills compared to other bidders," KAI President Kim Hong-kyung said. "More efforts will be made to sell T-50s to Israel, Poland and the United States as well."

The T-50s were jointly developed with U.S. company Lockheed Martin in a 13-year project that cost $1.8 billion.

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