Korea Aerospace Industries had a rollout ceremony on June 7 for the first of 48 FA-50 light combat aircraft that it will export to Poland.
Delivery of an initial batch of 12 FA-50GF (“Gap Filler”) aircraft will allow Poland to quickly replace aging fighters in its air force. These Gap Filler aircraft are essentially South Korean FA-50s rerouted to Poland to fill an urgent need, with delivery of the aircraft taking place a relatively short time after contract signature in September 2022. KAI will begin flight-testing the first FA-50GF soon, and it plans to deliver all 12 Gap Filler aircraft by the end of 2023.
KAI will then build 36 FA-50PL variants tailored to Poland’s specific requirements. KAI will deliver these aircraft starting in the second half of 2025. It expects to complete deliveries by the end of 2028.
The FA-50PL will offer a number of upgrades to the version used by the South Korean Air Force and Gap Filler aircraft. It will add the capability for aerial refueling and have an enhanced active electronically scanned array (AESA) radar. It will also get qualified to fire additional air-to-surface and air-to-air weapons.
The FA-50 does not offer the full range of combat capabilities offered by a Lockheed Martin F-16 Block 70/72 or Saab Gripen, but it also costs much less to acquire and operate than heavier fighters. Derived from KAI’s supersonic T-50 jet trainer, it retains the T-50’s two-seat tandem configuration and can function as a trainer when not needed for combat duty. The deal with Poland is the first export of the FA-50 to a European customer and part of South Korea’s successful recent effort to increase arms exports in the region.