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In Response to High Demand, KAI Develops Single-Seat Variant of FA-50 Fighter Jet

The single-seat FA-50 will offer increased fuel tank capacity, allowing the fighter to operate at longer ranges and carry more weaponry systems.

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(DEFENCE SECURITY ASIA) — South Korea aerospace giant, Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is set to develop a single-seat variant of the FA-50 light fighter jet to meet the growing demand in the market for single-seat fighter aircraft.

Currently, KAI’s FA-50 “Fighting Eagle” is only available in a two-seat configuration.

“Up to now, KAI has successfully exported 138 units of its two-seater FA-50 fighter aircraft, but there is a high demand for the single-seat variant,” according to recent reports from South Korean media.

KAI has attracted the interest of several countries in purchasing the two-seater FA-50/TA-50 light fighter jets, including the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF), Royal Thai Air Force (RTAF), Indonesian National Armed Forces-Air Force (TNI-AU), Philippine Air Force, and the Polish Air Force.

The latest addition to KAI’s clientele for the FA-50 light fighter is the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF).

FA-50
FA-50

 

The South Korean company has received numerous inquiries for the single-seat FA-50 variant.

The single-seat FA-50 will offer increased fuel tank capacity, allowing the fighter to operate at longer ranges and carry more weaponry systems.

KAI estimates the current global market demand for single-seat light fighter aircraft to be around 450 units, with the company forecasting the potential sale of approximately 300 units of this fighter jet type to customers worldwide.

The FA-50 light fighter is derived from the advanced training aircraft TA-50, a result of collaboration between KAI and Lockheed Martin of the United States.

At the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA) in May of last year, the South Korean Ministry of Defense and major aerospace company Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) signed a contract worth RM4 billion to procure 18 units of the FA-50M light fighter.

The first batch of four FA-50M light fighter aircraft is expected to be delivered to the RMAF in October 2026, followed by the remaining 14 units in stages.

FA-50
FA-50

 

The FA-50M variant acquired by the RMAF is the most modern and capable FA-50 Block 20, distinguishing it from variants obtained by other countries, including South Korea and several Southeast Asian nations.

Notable differences in the Malaysian FA-50M variant include the integration of an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar, various state-of-the-art electronic components, and an in-flight refueling system.

The FA-50M variant for Malaysia will also be equipped with the capability to launch guided missiles and precision bombs.

 Additionally, the Malaysian FA-50M will feature the “Sniper” Advanced Targeting Pod (ATP), a targeting system developed by U.S. defense firm Lockheed Martin.

Weighing approximately 200kg, the Sniper ATP pod provides enhanced tracking and identification capabilities, along with continuous surveillance for all missions, including close support for ground forces.

The Sniper ATP system has proven its capabilities in various theaters of war, utilized by the United States and international customers, including F-15E, F-16 (all Blocks), B-1, A-10C, Harrier GR7/9, and F/A-18 aircraft. — DSA

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