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S. Korea signs record deal to export light attackers to Iraq
DECEMBER 13, 2013 06:54  
A South Korean aircraft maker will export 24 FA-50 light attackers to Iraq in a 1.1-billion-U.S.-dollar deal that will mark the largest ever arms export for South Korea.

Ha Sung-yong, chairman of Korea Aerospace Industries, and Iraqi Prime Minister Nouri al-Maliki signed the deal Thursday (local time) in Baghdad. Representing South Korea, Defense Acquisition Program Administration chief Lee Yong-gul, Ambassador to Baghdad Kim Hyun-myung and Deputy Air Force Chief of Staff Kim Hyung-chul also attended the signing ceremony. The two sides signed the 1.1-billion-dollar contract for Seoul`s export of 24 FA-50 light attackers and pilot training support. They also agreed to sign an additional contract later for support equipment and training over the next 25 years.

"The deal has proved the excellence of South Korean aerospace industry and the competitiveness of Korean-made aircraft in the world market," Ha told reporters.

The FA-50 beat Britain`s Hawk-128, Russia`s Yak-130 and the Czech Republic`s L-159 by winning top scores in performance and operational economy. Korea Aerospace Industries plans to deliver 24 FA-50s between 2015 and 2016.

"During our bidding process, we had many crises including some foreign media reports on Iraq`s rumored selection of the Czech aircraft," a Korean aerospace company official said. "However, we were able to turn the table thanks to government-wide support." Also helpful was Baghdad`s favorable assessment of South Korean troops` roles in Iraq.

The FA-50 is a light attacker based on the South Korean-developed T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer. The FA-50 is capable of flying up to Mach 1.5 and performing air-to-air and air-to-surface missions during both day and night with various high-tech electronic equipments and precision guided weapons systems. The export of one FA-50 is equivalent to selling more than 1,000 mid-sized passenger cars. Korea Aerospace Industries said that the export is expected to be worth 4.3 trillion won (4.1 billion dollars) in economic effects and create 36,000 jobs.

In addition, the deal would pave the way for the South Korean company tap into export markets in the Middle East in addition to Indonesia, Turkey and Peru. The aircraft maker is engaged in sales activities in the Philippines, Peru, Botswana and the United States to export more than 1,000 units in the T-50 line, about 30 percent of the global advanced trainer jet market.

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