KAI aims to supply Slovakia with domestically developed FA-50 aircraft
Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is aiming to supply Slovakia with 10 domestically developed FA-50 light fighter aircraft as part of the central European country's push to replace its ageing fleet of trainer jets, according to the state arms procurement agency on Thursday.
The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said that the agency's chief Kang Eun-ho attended a signing ceremony Wednesday in Budapest, Hungary, where President Moon Jae-in will meet his counterparts from the Visegrad Group (V4) of four central European states — Hungary, the Czech Republic, Poland and Slovakia — on Thursday.
At the ceremony, KAI signed an agreement with Letecke opravovne Trencin (LOTN), Slovakia's state-run defense company, to ensure smooth bilateral cooperation in the Korean company's efforts to export FA-50 aircraft.
Slovakia plans to replace its ageing fleet of L-39 trainer aircraft and is expected to issue a call for proposals from aircraft manufacturers in the first half of next year, a DAPA official said. The project is expected to be worth $500 million.
The FA-50, developed jointly by KAI and U.S. defense manufacturer Lockheed Martin, is a combat variant of the T-50 supersonic trainer jet. The FA-50 can be used for both training and operational purposes.
The FA-50 gained media attention last month after Moon rode one to make his entrance at the Seoul Aerospace and Defense Exhibition (ADEX) — the first time for a Korean president to fly over domestic territory in a fighter jet — in a symbolic move to highlight his confidence in the fighter jet.
While in Hungary, Kang also plans to meet Hungarian military officials to discuss bilateral cooperation in the defense industry, officials said.
As part of a wider export push earlier on Wednesday, President Moon Jae-in held a summit with Hungarian President Janos Ader and agreed to a strategic partnership with the country.
"Despite the Covid-19 pandemic, bilateral trade reached a new high last year," Moon said during a joint press briefing after the summit, adding that he hopes Korea and Hungary will step up their cooperation in electric vehicles and batteries and cleaner energy development.
Moon's state visit to Budapest marks the first to the country by a South Korean president in 20 years.
According to Korean government data, bilateral trade between South Korea and Hungary stood at $3.6 billion in 2020, compared with $2.97 billion in 2019.
South Korea's exports to Hungary rose 18.1 percent to $2.92 billion in 2020. Imports from Hungary jumped 36.6 percent to $678 million last year.
BY MICHAEL LEE [email@example.com]