SHAH ALAM: Thai T-50THs in Kuantan. It appears that Korean Aerospace are working hard to get the T-50 light jet trainer into the RMAF. Last year they took part in LIMA series exhibition in Langkawi. The Black Eagles then conducted a display over Kuala Lumpur, over the skies of KLCC.
Today (Jan. 10, 2018) two T-50TH of the Royal Thai Air Force made a stop-over at Kuantan airport, the last leg of their ferry flight from South Korea to Thailand. The two aircraft had earlier made stop-overs at Clark airbase in the Philippines and Kaohsiung, Taiwan.
The jets were expected to arrive at Takhli Air Base in central Thailand on January 11, concluding their 4,137-mile (6,658km) ferry flight. The two T-50TH are from the four Golden Eagles ordered by Thailand in 2015. Last year, the Thai government ordered eight more T-50s reportedly for $258 million.
According to specifications released earlier by KAI, the T-50TH will be fully combat capable, being fitted with fire control radar — expected to be the Elbit EL/M-2032 — MIL-STD-1760 databus and will have provision for the Link 16 data link.
Yes, RMAF had indicated its interest in the T-50 for the lead-in fighter trainer (LIFT) role currently undertaken by the MB-339CM. It is an open secret that the CMs are no longer optimum platforms for the demanding task of producing fighter pilots for the RMAF.
There was confusion of the timelines over RMAF plans to get a LIFT replacement when the matter was made public at a conference in Germany, last year. My colleague from Aviation Week reported that the LIFT cum LCA replacement would start around 2025 while Janes on the other hand says it will be around 2022.
RMAF has not made public its stand on the matter but following the announcement of the 2018 budget, the service had stated that the Hawk upgrade, which been planned for sometime now, would start soon. With the upgrades the RMAF Hawk fleet are expected to be in service until 2030.
Personally I have no problem with RMAF finding a replacement for the CM within the next five years. However if they choose the KAI T-50 to replace the CMs, it will mean that RMAF will operate with four fast jets just like its current ORBAT.
It will be cheaper, to say the least, if it sought to consolidate its LIFT program to the Hawk Mk108s by acquiring more examples from Oman which has four similar Hawks. These Hawks will be replaced with newer Hawks. This will increase the twin seat Hawk to nine or ten aircraft allowing for the retirement of the CMs.
* reports from Thailand suggests both aircraft will have to stay longer at Kuantan as they suffered unspecified technical faults while flying through severe weather in South China Sea.
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