Interview with Mr Jan Lee, the marketing manager of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), responsible for European and Eurasian sales of the T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft.

Interview with Mr Jan Lee, the marketing manager of Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI), responsible for European and Eurasian sales of the T-50 Golden Eagle aircraft.

1. The design, systems and flight properties of the T-50 Golden Eagle are very similar to those of the Polish Lockheed F-16 ‘Hawk’ fighter aircraft. What more can you tell us about the T-50 and its similarities to the F16?

When we were developing this aircraft in cooperation with Lockheed Martin, the concepts and development behind it were very similar to those of the F-16. As far as the aircraft’s flight characteristics and capabilities are concerned, they are also very similar. The cockpit arrangement, screens, control stick and throttle control are also all very, very similar. The way in which information is displayed on the liquid crystal screens and the HUD is practically identical, as are the symbols used on both aircraft. The way in which the pilot reads information concerning the aircraft is similar as well. We use the same ‘Fly-By-Wire’ technology present in the F-16 and F-35. Thanks to these similarities, a pilot can quickly learn to fly an F-16. The similarities also extend to the maintenance and servicing of the aircraft. The concept, maintenance, servicing and procedures have much in common, which again provides synergy value throughout the aircraft’s usage. Those are the similarities.

2. The T-50 Golden Eagle is the only aircraft taking part in the tender for advanced training aircraft, which can reach supersonic speed. Does the capacity to reach such a top speed not entail high training costs?

No. Because the engine we have installed is a very capable unit, with significant capabilities it enables reaching supersonic speed with ease. In order to reach such velocity, one has to activate the turbocharger. Using it does of course affect fuel consumption. This means, that considering solely fuel consumption, it is indeed higher for the T-50 than for the other aircraft. Speaking, however, of operational costs of the aircraft, the cost of fuel corresponds to 10 to 15 per cent of overall operational costs.

On our side we have plenty of experience comparing operational costs of of the T-50 with those of other aircraft previously used for training purposes.. It was a welcome surprise to find, that the operational costs of the T-50 are in fact lower than those of the aircraft we previously used for training.

3. The Polish Air Force uses F-16s. In the future, could the T-50 eventually be used as a training aircraft for F-35 pilots?

The United States Air Force uses the supersonic Talon T-38 aircraft. The current, upgraded version of this aircraft is the T-38C, which has very high capabilities indeed. However, the US Air Force reached the conclusion, that this aircraft will not suffice to train future F-35 pilots. Their current, temporary decision is to use F-16s which will fill the void in the training program of future F-35 pilots. In this case, using the T-50 as a training aircraft, would make the F-16 obsolete. I don’t think there is any other training-combat aircraft capable of filling the void in the training of future F-35 pilots like T-50.

4. However, before future pilots take their place behind the controls of the T-50 Golden Eagle, they must complete training on a flight simulator. What kind of simulator is used to train pilots in Korea, and would the same one be used in the Polish Air Force?

To answer your question appropriately, this is not simply a simulator. It is a very complex system requiring a simulator and trainer, as well as the capacity to acquire knowledge on electronic devices, computers and stations. This includes a system to plan missions and a post-mission debriefing system. This also requires a very complex and efficient system to manage the entire training program of the pilots, which is capable of tracking the progress in the education of individual pilots and eventually asses their results. Taking under account the tender requirements set out by the Ministry of National Defence, we offered a complete ground-training program. The important thing here, is that this complete system will be capable of modernising the Polish Air Force. The aircraft itself cannot modernise the Air Force. The key aspect here is a very well organised system and procedures involved in pilot training. At this point I would also like to add, that this system has already been implemented in the Korean Air Force. It has been used for several years now, and its effectiveness has been proven by analyses of the Korean Air Force.

5. Would the T-50 Golden Eagle cope with the demands of filling the void left by the Su-22 fighter bombers which is set to be withdrawn within the next few years?

We carried out a model analysis on the aircraft’s operational capabilities, which takes under account the combat capabilities, armament and similar features. Having carried out these analyses, it turned out that our aircraft’s combat capabilities are much more superior to those of the the Su-22. The T-50 can carry out the Su-22’s missions with much greater effectiveness. It can also be used as a support aircraft for F-16s.

6. Are you considering presenting the T-50 Golden Eagle construction in Poland? When and where?

The Ministry of National Defence is currently dealing with the tender procedure and intends to announce the successful offering within the next few months. So I will wait to hear the results of this tender, and should we be selected we will send our aircraft to Poland.

7. If the Polish Air Force chooses the T-50 Golden Eagle, would we become Korea Space Industry’s showcase client in Europe?

 I think so. If Poland chooses the T-50, the doors to the European market would open for us. That will make me very happy.

8. Is there a possibility to polonize the T-50’s technology and its support and servicing?

Our offset proposal will be submitted in accordance with the MOE’s requirements and timetable for the offset programme. Our cooperation programme will result in the maximum possible “Polonisation” of the aircraft. We have identified areas of cooperation that would allow the Polish Air Force to move to self-operation and self-maintenance of the T-50P in Poland. KAI’s long-term goal is to place additional orders of T-50P items for foreign customers in Poland, and to provide technical support for the repair and maintenance of T-50P training systems for the life of the T-50P in the PAF. KAI has also been reviewing technology transfer, procurement, and other industrial cooperation opportunities with Polish industry.

 9. Is there a possibility for industrial cooperation between Poland and Korea?

We are convinced that the selection of Korea for the Polish trainer requirement will be a key step in the development of Polish-Korean economic and trade relations, and that it will open the doors to a strategic relationship between Poland and Korea and other Korean companies

 10. What is the projected delivery lead-time for the T-50 aircraft if KAI wins the tender?

The first two aircraft will be delivered in 2013, as was stated in the tender terms by the tender commission. We will also train twelve pilots for Polish use in Korea, before the delivery of these first two machines of course. At the same time we will carry out and complete the training of the aircraft’s service crews. This is also how the logistics pack will be delivered.

11. How will the training of pilots and instructors be carried out?

Firstly, Polish F-16 pilots are an important and valuable asset. We will therefore train pilots and instructors for the T-50, using former Su-22 pilots or former TS-11 Iskra instructors. After they have completed their training for the T-50, the twelve pilots can be considered F-16 pilots, as the transition period from the T-50 to the F-16 is very short

12. Is it possible, that there will be an International Pilot Training Centre for European T-50 pilots in Poland?

Yes. I understand, that the Polish Air Force, and particularly the Deblin base would like to create an International Pilot Training Centre. However, this all depends on the Polish aviation sector and industry. It will, of course, be our task to support Polish efforts in this matter. However, the first challenge facing the Polish Air Force is a very good understanding of this new system and its operation. Only then will they be able to invite pilots from foreign Air Forces to be trained. This means that Poland will take delivery of the last aircraft in 2015. It is likely, that a complete familiarisation with the principles and usage of this system will take the Polish Air Forces three to four years. This means that the realistic date for the implementation and commencement of and International Pilot Training Centre is between 2018 and 2020. As the Polish Air Force intends to use the Deblin base as an International Pilot Training Centre, it should carry out a comprehensive study of the creation of such a centre whilst getting to know the functions and operation within the new training system.

13. Poland aside, are there any other markets that Korea Space Industries is looking to gain a foothold in?

We are trying to sell our plane to practically every country in need of new combat-training aircraft. Amongst others, the United States Air Force is one of the most important clients. There are of course many other countries- Israel, Chile, quite possibly Greece, Turkey and Spain. So we are speaking with a number of Air Forces.

14. Is every F-16 user a potential T-50 Golden Eagle recipient?

Yes. Our primary target customer are Air Forces which currently use F-16s as combat aircraft and, of course, Air Forces which intend to use the F-35. There are, of course, various Air Forces which use other fighter aircraft. They are also showing a of interest in our machine. Naturally, those who are using F-16s and will be using F-35s, will benefit greatly from the great similarities between the T-50 and the F-16, and the T-50 and the F-35.