South Korea's trainer jet has taken its first test flight in US last week after both the countries agreed to mutually recognize its airworthiness certification in September.
On 19 November, the 'T-X' trainer, a modified version of the T-50 planes in service with the South Korean Air Force, showed off its flight performance as a candidate to replace the existing jets operated by the US Air Force, the Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said in a statement Thursday.
The advanced T-X trainer jet was built by the Korea Aerospace Industries Co. (KAI). T-X is the US project name for the advanced trainer jet that will replace the T-38 Talons in use at present.
"The T-X's test flight in the US means that the US Department of Defense has officially accepted the airworthiness certification domestically earned for the South Korean aircraft," a DAPA spokesman said.
To obtain approval to fly in US airspace, South Korea was undergoing a complicated administrative process and provide extra costs.
DAPA believes that the mutual recognition of airworthiness certificates would assist South Korea in exporting its trainer jets to the US in the long term.
Till now, KAI's aircraft exports reached $3.4 billion helped by demand for the KT-1 basic trainers and the T-50 advanced trainer jets in emerging markets, such as Indonesia, Thailand and the Philippines.
Meanwhile, South Korea signed a $1.2 billion deal with Lockheed Martin Corp. a week ago to gradually upgrade its entire 134 KF-16 fighter jets during the 2017-2020 periods, the spokesman said. Under the upgrade contract, Lockheed will modernize the 134 KF-16s to a configuration similar to its advanced F-16V model.
Among the upgrades are an Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA) radar; a modern commercial off-the-shelf-based avionics subsystem; a large-format, high-resolution center pedestal display; and a high-volume and high-speed data bus, the US aircraft company said on its webpage.
AESA is a type of phased array radar whose transmitter and receiver functions are composed of numerous small transmit/receive (T/R) modules. AESA radars have almost instantaneous scanning rates, making them difficult to jam and allowing the aircraft employing the technology to remain stealthy. A data bus refers to a system within a computer or device.