Weeks after the most recent statements, Argentine and South Korean government officials continue negotiations for the purchase of 10 FA-50 Golden Eagle Lead in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) aircraft, any consideration that Leonardo’s M-346FA might had, now is gone. Amid the lack of more detailed official information from any of both parties, some milestones have been disclosed and to confirm that an actual framework is being agreed upon after the highest level of argentine government has given the "go".
Representatives of Argentina and South Korea are agreeing to set up a joint venture to build, develop and support the FA-50AR, presumably between the Fabrica Argentina de Aviones S.A. (FAdeA) and Korea Aerospace Industries. The South Korean Government holds the majority of the shares in KAI. The remaining stock is completed by Hanwha Techwin and the U.S. based, Blackrock Fund, which happened to have also recently opened a branch in Buenos Aires.
Among the South Korean Government shares one part is on behalf of the Export Import Bank of Korea, who is currently assessing the available financing to fund the venture. This is important considering that on all large overseas allocations of funds made by the argentine state, there’s always a peril of being subject to a justice-enforced embargo, pending on the jurisdiction and based on presentations made by current argentine defaulted debt holders.
Such an industrial enterprise would be responsible to develop in full the FA-50AR version, with probe-and-drogue air to air refueling provisions, Link16 and operational BVR capability, although, the purchase of beyond visual range (BVR) air-to-air missiles has not been forecasted and the initial operational capability (IOC) would be achieved with current AF arsenal of AIM-9L/M Sidewinder missiles. The fact on Link16 provision is not to be underestimated considering current Turkey-U.S. developments regarding the F-35 5th generation aircraft and recently purchased S-400 air defense systems.
These developments are not minor considering that were among the observations made by experts about the aircraft, some of which are considered necessary to achieve both the full potential of the FA-50 and also to secure more export orders. A recent article published in Chosun has also expressed a proposal to extend this improved standard retrofit on existing ROKAF aircraft, like Philippines did, on software defined radios (SDR), recon/targeting pods and BVR missiles, to completely replace both F-4’s Phantom and F-5’s still in korean service.
For the time being, the initial proposal for ten aircraft, if all economic, political and even with upcoming argentine general elections are in place, puts to test our anxiety and the AF’s to deploy after a long-lasting wait for a modern, supersonic vector over argentine skies. Even considering today’s statements by defense minister Oscar Aguad to the armed force chiefs of staff and the press but let’s not forget, this is not enough.
Cover Photo: artist's render of a fully loaded, A2R capable KAI FA-50 with Phillipine Air Force markings.