The Iraqi Air Force ordered 24 KAI T-50 supersonic advanced jet trainer and light attack aircraft on 12 December 2013. Iraq will use the Korea Aerospace Industries machines mainly as lead-in trainer for their 36 new F-16 Fighting Falcon multi-role fighters. The aircraft are designated T-50IQ.
The deal of more than US$1.1 billion comes with training for Iraqi Air Force pilots. It marks the growing success of the US-Korean designed aircraft, after Indonesia received the first of 16 T-50s and the Philippine Air Force is in the process of buying a dozen of the FA-50 derivative. Chile and Botswana are said to be interested in the aircraft as well.
For the Iraqi order Korea Aerospace Industries beat British Aeropace Hawk 128s, Russian Yakolev Yak-130s and Czech-made Aero/Let L-159s.
The KAI T-50 advanced jet trainer is a joint development between Lockheed Martin and Korean Aerospace Industries. Its derivative FA-50 is even made to be used as for ground attack, as well as limited aerial combat capabilities armed with air-to-air missiles and gun pods. According to the official KAI release Iraq buys the trainer version, but in a version that can be used for combat as well. This clarifies why Iraq has ordered 24 aircraft, relatively large for a main fighter force of 36 F-16s.
Iraq is quite busy rebuilding its defence forces, after the US invasion of the country in 2003 and following destruction of the Iraq military. Iraq has somewhat got its independence back and that results in the need for a military force that can balance the delicate strategic situation with its neighbours Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and Syria.
Source: KAI with additional reporting by AIRheads’ Marcel Burger