The T-50 Golden Eagle is a family of South Korean supersonic advanced trainers and multirole fighters, developed by Korea Aerospace Industries beginning in the late 1990s. The T-50 is South Korea's first indigenous supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. It took its maiden flight in 2002 and entered active service with the Republic of Korea Air Force in 2005.
The T-50 advanced trainer had been further developed into aerobatic and combat variants, namely T-50B, TA-50, and FA-50. Ten T-50B serve with the South Korean air force's aerobatics team. In 2011, the first squadron of TA-50, T-50's light attack variant, had become operational. The maiden flight of FA-50, T-50's multirole fighter variant with comparable capabilities to KF-16, had also taken place in 2011. First FA-50 production for 60 aircraft will commence in 2013 until 2016.As of 2011, sixteen TA-50 light attack variants of the family has been exported to Indonesia, and additional export orders are being pursued in countries such as Iraq, Israel, Poland, the Philippines, and Spain. T-50 is also being marketed as a candidate for the T-X program of the United States as the United States Air Force's next-generation advanced trainer. The T-50 is the proposed base for the F-50 next-generation indigenous fighter.
The T-50 Golden Eagle design is largely derived from the Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon, and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons. KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the T-50.
The trainer can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against 4-lb objects impacting at 400 knots. The altitude limit is 14,600 metres (48,000 ft), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 litres (701 US gal), five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 litres (452 US gal) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks. T-50 trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The T-50 Golden Eagle uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC) system jointly developed by General Electric and Korea Aerospace Industries. The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5. Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. The General Electric F414 engine has been suggested as the new engine for the T-50 family, as well as Rolls Royce's EJ200 to allow better compatibility with European air forces. Both engines provide more thrust compared to the F404.
The T-50's central processing unit and its operating system are developed by MDS Technology. The T-50's NEOS avionics operating system is the first and only real-time operating system to be developed by an Asian company, and is given the DO-178B and IEEE POSIX certification. Samsung Thales and LIG Nex1 are the main avionics and electronic warfare equipment developers for T-50 and its variants. Other South Korean companies and defense institutes such as DoDAAM Systems, Aeromaster, Intellics, and Korea Institute of Defense Analysis are responsible for the aircraft's secondary avionics and embedded systems, including store management computers, avionics testing equipment, flight data recorders, portable maintenance aids, data analysis software, post-flight data processing system, aircraft structure and engine management software, mission computer, and mission planning and support system.
Hanwha supplies the mechanical parts for the flight control system, and WIA supplies the undercarriage. The T-50 is equipped with a Honeywell H-764G embedded global positioning/inertial navigation system and HG9550 radar altimeter. The aircraft is the first trainer to feature the digital fly-by-wire control interface (triple redundant). The cockpit panels, switches, and joysticks are produced by South Korea's FirsTec and Sungjin Techwin, head-up display by DoDaaM Systems, and multi-function display by Samsung Thales. Other South Korean subcontractors such as Elemech, Dawin Friction, and Withus cooperate in T-50 components production.
Armament and equipment
TA-50 mounts a General Dynamics A-50 20 mm cannon internally behind the cockpit. The cannon is a three-barreled version of the M61 Vulcan, with 205 rounds of linkless ammunition. AIM-9 Sidewinders can be attached at each of the wingtip rails, and additional weapons can be mounted to underwing hardpoints. Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick missile, Hydra 70 and LOGIR rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, −83, and −84 general purpose bombs.
FA-50 can be externally fitted with Rafael's Sky Shield or LIG Nex1's ALQ-200K ECM pods, Sniper or LITENING targeting pods, and Condor 2 reconnaissance pods to further improve the fighter's electronic warfare, reconnaissance, and targeting capabilities. Other improved weapon systems over TA-50 include SPICE multifunctional guidance kits, Textron CBU-97/105 Sensor Fuzed Weapon with WCMD tail kits, JDAM, and JDAM-ER for more comprehensive air-to-ground operations, and AIM-120 missiles for BVR air-to-air operations. FA-50 has provisions for, but does not yet integrate, Python and Derby missiles, also produced by Rafael, and other anti-ship missiles, stand-off weapons, and sensors to be domestically developed by Korea.
- Crew: 2
- Length: 12.98 m (42 ft 7 in)
- Wingspan: 9.17 m (30 ft 1 in)
- Height: 4.78 m (15 ft 8.25 in)
- Empty weight: 6,450 kg (14,200 lb)
- Max takeoff weight: 13,500 kg (29,700 lb)
- Powerplant: 1× General Electric F404 afterburning turbofan
- Dry thrust: 53.07 kN (11,925 lbf)
- Thrust with afterburner: 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf)
- Maximum speed: Mach 1.4~1.5
- Range: 1,851 km (1,150 mi)
- Service ceiling: 16,760 m (55,000 ft)
- Thrust/weight: 0.96
- Max g limit: -3 g / +8 g
- Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) General Dynamics A-50 3-barreled rotary cannon
- Hardpoints: Total: 7
- Rockets: Hydra 70, LOGIR
- Air-to-air: AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM.
- Air-to-ground: AGM-65 Maverick
- Air-to-air: AIM-9 Sidewinder, AIM-120 AMRAAM.
- Bombs: Mk 82, Mk 83, and Mk 84 general purpose bombs with SPICE, JDAM, or JDAM-ER guidance kits; CBU-97/105 sensor fuzed weapons, laser-guided bombs