Upgraded FA-50PH Jets for the Philippine Air Force?

The discussions pertaining to this Korean-made asset have already made rounds within this outlet where its capabilities and roles really mean a lot in terms of providing the current air interdiction abilities that the Philippine Air Force (PAF) obtains. In this matter though, it is to see worth again to add more information in this topic along with other articles already posted here, given that the line of jet fighters from South Korea is set to have a leap on its aircraft in production.

This Lead-In Fighter Jet may get the upgrades it needs to be a
complementary combat fighter.
Obtained from Lima Mike Romeo, DRP.
Before proceeding, kindly read these two articles which pertain to the discussion on FA-50PH. 

The Role of FA-50PH as Both Trainer and Light Fighter - PDA (dated Dec. 01, 2016); and
- The Idea of Having BVR features in an FA-50 Lead-In Fighter Trainer Jet - PDA (dated January 31, 2019).

These two article discussions provide insights that primarily set to the capabilities and potentials that the FA-50PH like the ones in the Philippine Air Force may obtain at least in the near future.

The reports on the upgrades that the Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI have for the FA-50 line of jets that it produces were first obtained by our source which was later disclosed by a Polandball-inspired page which obtains the credibility as it has the information with regards to the planned upgrade.
The report that the page cited came from a notable South Korean Defense Page Bemil-Chosun that discusses defense-related updates and issues about the Korean Armed Forces and its Defense Industry. The translation from the page are as follows:

The Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries are requesting BVR capability for the FA-50 Fighting Eagle.

FA-50, equipped with EL/M-2032 radar, MIDS/LVT-6, and digital RWR, is the Philippines' only fighter aircraft. As for Indonesia, it sorely lacks fighters despite its vast airspace, which is why its Air Force is upgrading the T-50i to FA-50 standard to double as light combat aircraft. (They cannot import Israeli EL/M-2032, so they're procuring Korean license-manufactured KM-2032)

In order to meet customer demands and to secure future customers, KAI decided to upgrade the FA-50 with BVR capability.

Unlike FA-50 in ROKAF service, which is used primarily for close air support and forward air control, a future export version of the FA-50 will exclusively be integrated with BVR missiles and Combined Interrogator/Transponder with IFF capability.

In addition, targeting pod will be integrated into both ROKAF and export FA-50 for improved ground attack capability. FA-50 already has precise ground attack capability thanks to its sophisticated GPS/INS system (Honeywell H764 EGI) integrated into its mission computer and its Link-16 tactical data link capability. Its EL/M-2032 radar also has ground attack mode that boosts FA-50's attack capability.

The integration of the targeting pod allows the FA-50 to utilize its ground attack capability at full potential. It increases the overall accuracy of airstrikes and reduces the number of ammunition required to successfully destroy a target.

Currently, ROKAF utilizes 500lb GUB-38 JDAM as FA-50's primary precision-guided munition. While JDAMs are capable of fire & forget, they are not as accurate as laser-guided bombs. GBU-12, ROKAF's most numerous LGB, is planned to be equipped on FA-50 once targeting pods are integrated. 

The content once again points back to the January 31 article where the idea of providing the jets with Beyond Visual Range Radar was raised in the process that it will raise the bar of the FA-50's capability as a light combat aircraft. Take note also that the reports pertaining at the time of the article's posting focusing on targeting pods that in any way helps improve the jet's ability in conducting accurate strafing or bombing of ground targets, making it more effective than the PAF's surgical bombing operations in Marawi City two years ago. 

At the moment, several units of FA-50PH that the Philippine Air Force currently obtains are equipped with EL/M 2032 Fire Control Radar originated from Israel. The discussions pertaining to it were traced back in 2016 where Shephard Media reported it as part of the Asian Defense and Security exhibition or ADAS 2016.
Image Source. Click the image to read clearer.
So, these developments that take place for the improvement of FA-50 capabilities are getting mainstream for the ones that obtain it such as the Republic of Korea Air Force, Indonesia, Iraq, Thailand, and the Philippines wherein this may help dictate so as the path that the T/TA/FA-50 production program may bring as well as the direction that the manufacturer such as the Korean Aerospace Industries or KAI will take. 

Here are the sample transponder of various types
that a fighter aircraft obtains.
Image Courtesy of 신선규.
Now, we are to provide the details regarding this development that was discussed on this page several articles ago. The first point that we will be pointing out is the correlation of the Beyond Visual Range (BVR) radar to a Transponder component that handles IFF or "Identification: Friend or Foe" capability. Let us quote the portion of the translated Bemil-Chosun once again specifically to this area of the topic:

"Unlike FA-50 in ROKAF service, which is used primarily for close air support and forward air control, a future export version of the FA-50 will exclusively be integrated with BVR missiles and Combined Interrogator/Transponder with IFF capability."

This was discussed in the first article on this page that deals on the role of the FA-50s within the Philippine Air Force, quoted directly from a post contributor of a defense-oriented group where it first highlights the contrast of the role of such jets have within the Korean Armed Forces with respect to its export variant that can be seen as an immediate alternative to the Multirole Fighter Jets - which is one of the projects the Philippine Air Force obtains under the Second Horizon. 

The BVR missiles like the Derby missiles produced from Israel and Combined Interrogator/Transponder with IFF capability are the components which will help upgrade the FA-50s once the South Korean manufacturer decides who will supply such capabilities to their combat jet product, with the combined interrogator/transponder being the main factor for the enhancement of having an ability to obtain the Beyond Visual Range detection of other aircraft, especially with the IFF capability that distinguishes friendly aircraft from the ones operated by the opposing forces. 

Ideally, every aircraft of various types obtains a transponder as a requirement for flying on airspace that requires it in the same way as ADS-B are slowly rolling in for air traffic purposes. The only thing regarding this upgrade is that a Combined Interrogator/Transponder, a military-spec component and the one that the FA-50 series doesn't obtain as the Koreans intend to use it for Close Air Support and Forward Air Control, will be provided where it may go and obtain the capacity for air detection that a Multirole Fighter Jet obtains, given that this was designed for air-to-air combat. An example will be the AN/APX lineup of products that are in production with BAE systems for F-16 fighter jets which a document PDF file can be accessed here (click this link is if in case the first one doesn't work).

The addition of such capability as said were being discussed in two aforementioned articles we share here wherein this additional advancement for the FA-50's combat ability may influence the flight setup of roles given that the Philippine Air Force's desire to undertake the Multirole Fighter Jet Program (MRF) that also obtains such capability especially in terms of implementing air defense mechanisms in designated airspace. With the MRFs being in the pipeline, the plans for the FA-50 upgrade may complement the planned purchase of the dedicated air assets that in the process may help enhance air interdiction capabilities of this branch of the military specialized in aerospace defense.

Then there is another quote that provides an idea regarding the interest of upgrading the combat fighter jets, especially in end-user countries including the Philippines.

"The Philippines, Indonesia, and other countries are requesting BVR capability for FA-50 Fighting Eagle."

The statement coming from the Korean defense outlet Bemil may provide the insight so as what pushes Korean Aerospace Industries to pursue its development for the T/TA/FA-50 family, especially in terms of gearing up its capability that may mean much for the countries that currently obtain them such as the Philippines where at present operates 12 units which locally converts to one squadron. 

This kind of interest may help improve the jets wherein being the most capable fighter jet (even it is categorized as Lead-in Fighter Trainer) in the Philippine Air Force as of the moment, the enhancements may provide these units the necessary ability that may help the country implement its Philippine Air Defense Identification Zone or PADIZ which is part of their Modernization efforts taking all the way to 2028.


The Korean Aerospace Industries will introduce the enhancements that countries like Indonesia and the Philippines need in order to make their respective T/TA/FA-50 jets more effective in terms of its performance that may go at par or complement multirole fighter jets.

With the Philippine Air Force also having a slated project for Multirole Fighter jets which also calls for 12 units that equates to one squadron, the current inventory of FA-50s which is the mainstay of the organization's 5th Fighter Wing may get its upgrades that along with the planned MRFs go hand in hand in implementing the PADIZ in a way that patrolling the skies may go enforceable especially once the components are in place such as the EL/M 2288 AD-STAR that the 580th ACWW or the Aircraft Control and Warning Wing operates or the proposed RAFAEL Spyder GBADS that in itself an essential component for the PADIZ implementation mechanism. To add some notes, there are even plans or considerations that additional squadrons of FA-50s were provided on the table in which the current developments that KAI undertakes may pave way for the possible realization of this prospect given the streamlined logistics chain this will bring.

So, this development is worthy to be checked upon from time to time where updates may be provided along the way as the process will be rolling. Once the development completes and the upgrade became available for respective users to obtain, this will be an interesting development not only for the increased capabilities for each air force's T/TA/FA-50 family but also a potential assurance for KAI to provide services which in turn may help boost sales of additional jets in production basing from its satisfaction on their desires to purchase more, ensuring the best for respective country's national security and interest.


Unknown said...

EL/M-2052(AESA),JHMCS,Python5/Derby-ER,litening pod

Curtis Conway said...

The US DoD could easily cut the Philippines a great deal on some used F/A-18C/Ds parked in the desert that are supersonic fighters with BVR capability. The EL/M-2032 radar, MIDS/LVT-6, and digital RWR can be installed on them too to maintain commonality with the FA-50s. They could even use the same engines.

Romy Pico said...

Problem with F/A18C/Ds are high maintenance and operational cost. Designed as an Air superiority fighter of its time, high performance comes with high operational and maintenance cost, unless the U.S. govt. gives the Jets for free, but of course, the Philippine govt' will shoulder the cost of refurbishment to operational status and shipping of the birds to the phils.
The F/A18s will be a big leap in terms of capability for the phils., may even be better than the new F16V. Well, anyway thanks so much for your concern. Very well appreciated.

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