April 17 (UPI) — Korea Aerospace Industries and a U.S. defense contractor are competing for a major advanced trainer jet contract with the U.S. Air Force, according to a South Korean press report.
After successfully completing the initial test flight of the second T-50A trainer aircraft in July 2016, KAI and Lockheed Martin formed a consortium to enter a bid, News 1 reported Monday.
The Air Force had announced its plans to purchase 350 new jets to replace the Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainer, according to Northrop Grumman.
KAI and Lockheed Martin want to supply the jets for $15 billion that could then lead to second and third-stage projects, South Korea media reported.
If the U.S.-South Korea group lands the contract, it would boost future defense collaboration as well as strengthen the bilateral alliance between Seoul and Washington.
The consortium, however, is up against stiff competition.
Boeing and Saab have submitted designs for the contract: a twin-seat single-engine trainer jet that features a glass cockpit.
Sierra Nevada Corp. and Turkish Aerospace Industries are also competitors for the bid, and Italy’s Leonardo has submitted its T-100 for the contract.
Sources at KAI are worried that the South Korean government is not taking sufficient charge of pushing the contract forward in the wake of South Korean President Park Geun-hye’s impeachment and the subsequent leadership vacuum in Seoul, according to News 1.
South Koreans are to elect a new president on May 9.
Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries developed the T-50 Golden Eagle in the ’90s. The jet has more than 142,000 flight hours and trained more than 2,000 fighter pilots.