100,000 Accident-Free Flight Hours! South Korean FA-50 Fighter Jets Achieve Key Milestone

In a significant milestone for South Korea’s domestically manufactured FA-50 light attack aircraft, the nation’s Air Force declared on October 6 that these jets have collectively logged an impressive 100,000 accident-free flight hours. 

The Republic of Korea Air Force announced this accomplishment on its Facebook page. 

The service said this milestone was reached when, on October 5, an FA-50 aircraft operated by the 8th Fighter Wing in Wonju, located 87 kilometers southeast of Seoul, successfully completed a flight.

Over the past decade, approximately 60 FA-50s operated by the Air Force collectively covered a staggering 55 million kilometers. To put this into perspective, this distance is roughly equivalent to 140 times the distance between Earth and the Moon.

Derived from the design of the T-50 trainer jet produced by Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd., the FA-50 has benefited from technical support provided by the American aerospace company Lockheed Martin. 

May be an image of 6 people, helicopter, military uniform and text
Pilots and mechanics of the Republic of Korea Air Force 8th Fighter Wing celebrate at an air base in Wonju, Gangwon Province, Thursday after the Air Force’s FA-50 light attackers logged a combined 100,000 hours of flights without accident. Courtesy of the Republic of Korea Air Force

Presently, this fighter aircraft is in active service with the 8th Fighter Wing and the 16th Fighter Wing, stationed in Yecheon County, which is situated 161 kilometers to the southeast of Seoul. 

Maj. Kim Nam-young, who operated the record-setting FA-50, said, “This 100,000-hour accident-free flight record reflects the hard work and sweat of the FA-50 pilots and mechanics.”

“I will do my best to protect our airspace with special pride in flying a fighter jet made with our own technology,” he added. 

Chief Master Sgt. Cho Suk Hee, responsible for the maintenance of FA-50s within the 8th Fighter Wing, emphasized, “We will inspect and maintain the FA-50 aircraft more closely so that they can take off and land safely.”

The nation’s Air Force also shared two photos capturing the celebratory moments following the successful flight, where Air Force personnel came together to commemorate this success.

The aircraft model made its debut flight in September 2013 and has since evolved into one of the most successful products of the South Korean defense industry.

FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft

As per information available on KAI’s website, the FA-50 aircraft has been enhanced based on the excellent performance of the T-50 trainer, incorporating features such as Tactical Data Link, Precision Guided Munitions, and Self Protection subsystems.

This upgraded version boasts flight performance on par with fighter jets and has been actively deployed and utilized by the Republic of Korea Air Force (ROKAF) since 2013.

This model is specifically designed to serve as a cost-effective and highly efficient supersonic advanced light attack platform.

Designed to fulfill the lightweight fighter needs of air forces around the world, the FA-50 incorporates an advanced radar system, endowing it with detection capabilities akin to the KF-16 fighter, a license-produced version of the American F-16.

In terms of its physical dimensions, the FA-50 spans 13.14 meters in length and 9.45 meters in width and stands at a height of 4.82 meters. With an empty weight of 6.47 tons, this aircraft is capable of taking off with a maximum gross weight of 12.3 tons.

FA-50 Light Combat Aircraft, South Korea

The FA-50 can be equipped with a variety of munitions, including AIM-9 Sidewinder short-range air-to-air missiles, AGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground tactical missiles, GBU-38/B Joint Direct Attack Munitions (JDAM), CBU-105 Sensor Fused Weapon (SFW), Mk-82 Low Drag General Purpose (LDGP) bombs, and Cluster Bomb Units (CBUs). 

In addition to this, the aircraft is also fitted with an internal, three-barrel 20mm Gatling gun, and it features an LAU-3/A 19-tube 2.75-inch rocket launcher, which is used for launching Folding-Fin Aerial Rockets (FFAR).

The KAI FA-50 aircraft is equipped with a General Electric F404-GE-102 turbofan engine that generates an impressive 17,700 pounds of thrust with afterburner capability. This engine’s performance is precisely regulated by a dual-channel full authority digital engine control (FADEC) system.

Meanwhile, South Korea has successfully exported the FA-50 aircraft to several countries. A noteworthy example is the Philippines, where a dozen of these aircraft have been in active service since 2015.

In May 2023, Malaysia formalized a contract with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to acquire 18 units of FA-50M lead-in fighter trainers and light fighters. This procurement, designated for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), has a total value of MYR3.84 billion, equivalent to $830.3 million. 

In late July 2022, Poland revealed its plans to acquire 48 KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle aircraft as part of an expansive procurement initiative that included hundreds of South Korean K2 main battle tanks and K9 self-propelled howitzers.