The T-50 Golden Eagle is an early 21st century Korean-American supersonic trainer. It has been developed by Korean Aerospace Industries in conjunction with Lockheed Martin. The program includes the A-50, or T-50 LIFT, as a light attack aircraft variant.
The T/A-50 program is the replacement for a variety of trainer and light attack aircraft. This includes the T-38 and F-5B in training and the CAS Cessna A-37B; in service with the South Korean Air Force. The program was originally intended to develop an indigenous trainer aircraft capable of supersonic flight in order to train and prepare pilots for the KF-16s. The T-50 makes South Korea the 12th nation to produce a complete jet fighter aircraft. Some of the South-Korean aircraft include the propeller-driven KT-1 basic trainer produced by Samsung Aerospace (now part of KAI), and license-manufactured KF-16s. Most of the core systems and technology were provided by Lockheed Martin, however, and in general the T/A-50 is said to closely resemble the KF-16 configuration.
The development of the aircraft was funded 13% by Lockheed Martin, 17% by Korea Aerospace Industries, and 70% by the government of South Korea. KAI and Lockheed Martin are currently pursuing a joint marketing program for the T-50 variant internationally.
The mother program, code-named KTX-2, began in 1992, but the Ministry of Finance and Economy suspended KTX-2 in 1995 due to financial matters. with the initial design of the aircraft, in 1999. It was renamed T-50 Golden Eagle in February 2000, with the final assembly of the first T-50 taking place between 15 January 2001. The first flight of the T-50 took place in August 2002, and initial operational assessment from July 28 to August 14, 2003. The South Korean air force placed a production contract for 25 T-50s in December 2003, with aircraft scheduled to be delivered between 2005 and 2009.
The Golden Eagle was reserved the official T-50A designation by the U.S. military, although it currently has no plans to procure the aircraft. The designation was reserved to prevent to it from being inadvertently assigned to another aircraft model.
Other variants of the T-50 Golden Eagle include the light-attack A-50, and the more-advanced F/A-50. The A-50 variant is an armed version of the T-50 as a stable platform for both free-fall and precision-guided weapons. FA-50 is an A-50 modified with an AESA radar and a tactical datalink which are not yet specified. As part of the A-37 retirement-out program to be completed by 2015, sixty A-50's will be in service for the South Korean air force by 2011.
The T-50 is equipped with a Honeywell H-764G embedded global positioning/inertial navigation system and HG9550 radar altimeter. The A-50 variant uses APG-67 radar from Lockheed Martin. The aircraft is the first trainer to feature the digital fly-by-wire control interface (triple redundant). The aircraft can carry up to two pilots, and the high-mounted canopy and the tandem seating allow the pilots superior visibility, vital to successful lock-on of enemy targets. The cockpit holds the On Board Oxygen Generating System (OBOGS).
The altitude limit is 48,000 ft, and the airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service. There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 litres, five in the fuselage and two in the wings. An additional 1,710 litres of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
The T-50 Golden Eagle uses a single General Electric F404 turbofan engine with Full Authority Digital Engine Control (FADEC). The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner. The aircraft can supercruise at the speed of Mach 1.05, and with maximum 78.7 kN (17,700 lbs) of thrust with the afterburner, and has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4.
A 20 mm General Dynamics M61 Vulcan cannon with 205 rounds of linkless linear feed can be mounted internally behind the cockpit. An AIM-9 Sidewinder heat-seeking air-to-air missile can be attached at each of the wingtip rails, and more missiles can be carried on the underwing hardpoints. Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 Maverick missile, LAU-3 and LAU-68 rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, -83, and -84 general purpose bombs. Three external fuel tanks can also be carried.