South Korea closed in on exporting its supersonic training jets to Indonesia as Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), a state-run aerospace company, was selected by Indonesia on April 12 as the preferred bidder for a massive procurement.
Korea Aerospace Industries, the builder of T-50 Golden Eagles, said that KAI was named the preferred bidder to replace Indonesian training jets. Indonesia will purchase 16 aircraft but further negotiations will be needed to decide the total price for the deal.
“Until now, many [have] reported that the deal will be worth $400 million, but I can’t say it’s accurate,” Kim Hong-kyung, president of KAI, said, “The price will be determined based on negotiations.”
“Now that we have been selected as the preferred bidder, real negotiations on price and other terms will begin,” said Kim Min-seok, spokesman of the Defense Ministry in Seoul as he confirmed the Indonesian decision.
If the deal goes through, it will be Korea’s first export of the jets.
The expected delivery date is 2013, the aircraft builder said.
Indonesia has been looking to replace its aged fleet of training jets, and Jakarta short-listed the T-50s last year with two other types of jets, YAK-13 from Russia and L-159 from the Czech Republic. So far, Jakarta has been traditionally preferred in purchasing Russian aerospace weapon system.
Currently, T-50 jets are being used as training advanced combat fighter pilots at South Korean Air Force 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 excellency in terms of modern technology, flying safety and various combat skills compared to other bidders,” said Kim Hong-kyung. “More efforts will be made to sell T-50s to Israel, Poland and the United States as well.”
South Korea is the sixth country after the U.S., Russia, England, France and Sweden to become a selected bidder in deal of supersonic training jet.
Seoul has tried to export the supersonic jets, which can also be used as multirole fighters, to the United Arab Emirates and Singapore, but failed. The T-50s were jointly developed with U.S.-based Lockheed Martin in a 13-year project that cost 2 trillion won ($1.8 billion).
President Lee Myung-bak has made strenuous efforts to sell the T-50s to Indonesia based on his friendship with Indonesian President Susilo Bambang Yudhoyono. Despited North Korea’s Yeonpyeong Island shelling, Lee traveled to Indonesia in December to attend the Bali Democracy Forum and held a summit with Yudhoyono to seek his cooperation in the export effort.
A high-profile Indonesian delegation also visited Seoul in February and Lee invited them to the Blue House.