LANGKAWI, May 27 – The Ministry of Defense is set to finalize an agreement with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for the purchase of 18 FA-50 ‘Fighting Eagle’ light combat aircraft, ensuring that the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) will operate the variant with the highest capability, known as ‘Block 20’. KAI’s Chief Executive Officer, Kang Goo-Young, revealed that the FA-50 Block 20 variant, to be acquired by Malaysia, surpasses the capabilities of the FA-50 currently operated by the Republic of South Korea Air Force (ROKAF) and other countries.

The RMAF and the Polish Air Force are the only operators to opt for the latest ‘Fighting Eagles’ variant. According to Kang, the FA-50 Block 20 aircraft for Malaysia and Poland represents the most advanced version of the FA-50, boasting state-of-the-art features. Notably, it incorporates the ‘Active Electronically Scanned Array’ (AESA) radar, a Targeting Pod, and a refueling system, which are absent in the Korean version operated by the ROKAF. KAI’s agreement with Poland last year involved the purchase of 48 FA-50s for its air force, further highlighting the aircraft’s appeal and capabilities.

In an interview during the Langkawi International Maritime and Aerospace Exhibition (LIMA’23), Kang disclosed that as part of the Industrial Collaboration Program (ICP) with the Malaysian government, 14 of the FA-50 Block 20 aircraft will undergo final stage assembly in Malaysia. The remaining four fighter jets will be assembled in South Korea, with deliveries to Malaysia expected to commence in October 2026. Kang emphasized the inclusion of new equipment in the Malaysian version, such as advanced radar, a refueling system, and cutting-edge target identification tools.

KAI will pre-order and conduct advanced research and development to ensure the delivery of these enhanced capabilities. The FA-50 Block 20 variant for the RMAF and Poland will be equipped with new capabilities, including the AESA ‘PhantomStrike’ radar developed by Raytheon, an aerial refueling ‘probe’ by Cobham, and an advanced target identification tool called ‘Sniper,’ among others. This variant can also carry precision-guided bombs and other advanced weaponry. Kang acknowledged the RMAF’s interest in the KF-21 ‘Boramae,’ a 4.5th generation fighter aircraft currently being developed by KAI.

He believes the KF-21 has the potential to replace the RMAF’s retiring multi-role combat aircraft, aligning with the air force’s long-term strategic plan. By combining the KF-21 and FA-50, the RMAF aims to bolster its air defense system with a more advanced and tactical approach. The KF-21’s fifth-generation platform, with the possibility of future upgrades to a sixth-generation fighter, positions it as an ideal choice for the RMAF. The procurement of the FA-50 Block 20 variant represents a significant step toward enhancing Malaysia’s air defense capabilities, aligning with the nation’s strategic defense plans for the future.

Pocket News