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Assembly of 18 RMAF FA-50M Fighter Jets Reaches 30 Percent Progress

The progress level of the assembly of 18 units of the FA-50M light fighter aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has currently reached 30 percent, with the first aircraft expected to be delivered to the nation in October 2026.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — The development progress of 18 units of the FA-50M light fighter aircraft for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) has currently reached 30 percent, with the first aircraft expected to be delivered by October 2026.

Industry sources informed Defence Security Asia that the current 30 percent progress level is ahead of the timeline agreed upon by both parties.

“Earlier than the contract timeline.”

“Assembly work on the aircraft has commenced in stages. Fuselage in the making,” the source stated, adding that the initial group of four FA-50M aircraft will commence delivery to the RMAF in October 2026.

The remaining FA-50M aircraft will be delivered to the RMAF gradually thereafter, with the final aircraft expected to be received by the year 2028.

Regarding the training for RMAF pilots, the industry source mentioned that it will commence in early 2026, involving six pilots for a period ranging from three to six months.

FA-50

This training will encompass simulator usage, they said.

“They will start with T50 and TA-50 aircraft before transitioning to the FA-50M aircraft,” they added, stating that initially, training will be conducted in Wongju using T-50 aircraft before moving to Sacheon, where RMAF pilots will, for the first time, pilot the country’s FA-50M fighter aircraft.

Regarding whether the FA-50M aircraft will utilize components previously mentioned by Defence Security Asia such as the “Sniper” Advanced Targeting Pod, “PhantomStrike” AESA radar, and others, the industry source simply confirmed, “Affirm.”

The FA-50M light fighter aircraft to be acquired by the RMAF is the most modern and capable FA-50 Block 20 variant, compared to variants obtained by other countries including South Korea and several Southeast Asian nations.

In an interview with Bernama in Langkawi last May, KAI CEO Kang Goo-Young stated that the FA-50 Block 20 variant (FA-50M) acquired by Malaysia is more advanced and capable compared to the FA-50 variant operated by the ROKAF.

One of the main differences between Malaysia’s FA-50M variant and others is that the RMAF’s light fighter aircraft will be equipped with an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, “PhantomStrike,” and various state-of-the-art electronic components and in-air refueling equipment.

The FA-50M variant to be owned by the RMAF will also have the capability to launch guided missiles and precision bombs.

FA-50
Philippine Air Force’s FA-50 light combat aircraft.

 

It will be equipped with the “Sniper” Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP) developed by the US defense firm, Lockheed Martin.

The approximately 200kg Sniper ATP targeting pod provides its users with upgraded capabilities to detect and identify targets, as well as continuous surveillance for all missions, including close support for ground forces.

The Sniper ATP system has proven its capabilities in combat zones accompanied by the United States as well as external customers, including F-15E, F-16 (all Blocks), B-1, A-10C, Harrier GR7/9, and F/A-18 aircraft.

The “plug and play” capability of the Sniper ATP pod allows it to be used by various platforms without the need to change software. Among the capabilities of the Sniper ATP targeting pod are mid-wave Forward Looking Infrared (FLIR) high-definition, HDTV, dual-mode laser, laser spot tracker, laser marker, video data link, digital data recorder.

The Lockheed Martin-produced Sniper ATP targeting pod also has the capability to track tactical targets through real-time imagery streamed to the cockpit display.

Sniper ATP is also suitable for pairing with the latest “J-Series” bombs for use against moving and stationary targets.

The FA-50M aircraft is also equipped with U/VHF radios almost identical to those used in the latest variants of F-16 Block 70 fighter aircraft.

FA-50
FA-50

 

A total of 18 units of the FA-50 Block 20 aircraft acquired by Malaysia for over RM4 billion are also equipped with “Link 16 Block Upgrade 2” (military tactical data link) that is secure, safe from enemy interception efforts, and more.

Additionally, this aircraft variant will be equipped with a 20mm gun, AIM-9 guided missiles, GBU-12 LGB Integration, GBU-38 JDAM (Joint Direct Attack Munitions), and AGM-65 Maverick guided missiles.

The FA-50 Block 20 variant is also reported to be equipped with an Air-To-Air Refueling Probe (AAR Probe) facility, the “Cobham Mission System,” developed by Cobham from the United Kingdom.

The in-air refueling capability will ensure that the FA-50 Block 20 aircraft operates farther and stays airborne longer. — DSA

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