Korea may get its chance at selling the T-50 supersonic trainer jet to the United Arab Emirates after all now that the Middle Eastern state has halted talks with rival supplier Italy. The T-50 Golden Eagle is Korea's first supersonic jet and was developed jointly by Korea Aerospace Industries and Lockheed Martin.
The country spent W2 trillion (US$1=W1,112) developing it, and each jet is priced at US$25 million. Korea first tried to sell it to the UAE in 2009 but was outbidden by Italy's M-346 trainer jet.
But the UAE suspended negotiations with Italy in February last year due to differences over the price and the lack of potential for industrial cooperation.
A government official said Sunday Abu Dhabi's state-run investment corporation Mubadala Development Company asked KAI in November last year if it was still interested in talks about selling the T-50s. "Since then, the Ministry of Knowledge Economy and Korea Export-Import Bank have been supporting the talks to make more inroads into the Middle Eastern market," he added.
A Mudabala team is expected to visit Korea soon and KAI figures will in turn visit a Mudabala facility for talks, the official added.
The UAE is proposing a private finance initiative to buy the jets whereby a private firm gets payments from the government in return for supplying facilities and services with private capital. A consortium made up of KAI and Lockheed Martin would build an Air Force pilot training center in the UAE, buy T-50 jets for the center and provide all services, including flight training and maintenance. It would be paid per flight hour.
The first phase worth $700 million includes 10 T-50 jets to train 25 pilots per year.
"We're currently talking to Mudabala rather than the UAE Air Force," the official said. "Mudabala is very influential, because it's a state-run investment firm run by a member of the royal family, and the company will explain the scheme to the country's Air Force at the end of this year."
The first export deal for the T-50 was struck in May last year with Indonesia, which agreed to buy 16 trainer jets.