Iraq is to field the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 Fighting Eagle armed trainer aircraft under a USD2.1 billion deal disclosed on 12 December.
The Iraqi Air Force (IqAF) will receive 24 FA-50s (to be designated T-50IQ in Iraqi service) valued at USD1.1 billion, with deliveries scheduled to take place throughout 2015, according to the South Korean Yonhap news agency. In addition to the aircraft sales, a 20-year training and support contract valued at a further USD1 billion has also been agreed.
The IqAF will procure the twin-seat FA-50 primarily as a lead-in fighter trainer for its 36 Lockheed Martin F-16 Fighting Falcon fighters, the first of which is due to be delivered in late 2014. Basic flight training will take place on 20 new Serbian Utva Lasta 95 piston-engined aircraft, with intermediate training on the Beechcraft T-6 Texan II turboprop.
The FA-50's ground attack capability will free-up the F-16s to focus on the air defence mission, while its light fighter capability will also enable it to serve as a force-multiplier in the air-to-air role. While neither KAI or the Iraqi governments have disclosed probable weapons packages, the FA-50 is equipped with an internal General Dynamics M197 20 mm Gatling-gun, and has seven external hardpoints for the carriage of both air-to-surface and air-to-air munitions up to 4,763 kg (10,500 lb).
According to IHS Jane's All the World's Aircraft , air-to-surface weapon types cleared for use on the FA-50 include the AGM-65A/D/G Maverick; Mk 82, Mk 83, Mk 84 and BLU-109 general purpose bombs; GBU-31, -32 and -38 guided weapons; CBU-52/58/71, CBU-103/104/105 and Mk 20 Rockeye II cluster munitions; LAU-68/131 and LAU-3A/5003 rocket pods; and the Textron Defense Systems CBU-97 Sensor Fuzed Weapon. The type's air-to-air package is made of the internal cannon and AIM-9L/M/N/P/S Sidewinder missiles.
The FA-50 deal seemingly scuppers earlier plans to procure the Czech-built Aero Vodochody L-159. Talks to purchase 28 L-159s (four surplus Army of the Czech Republic L-159T1 two-seater trainers and 24 newly built L-159Bs) had been ongoing since the Czech and Iraqi governments had reached a preliminary deal in October 2012. In addition to the L-159s, the deal with the Czech Republic would have included forgiveness of Iraqi debt accumulated prior to 1989 during the regime of Saddam Hussein.
However, in May it was revealed that these talks had stalled following a counter-bid by KAI for its FA-50, which was being offered by South Korea through the countertrade of crude oil. With Iraq being the world's 12th largest oil producer and South Korea the world's 5th largest importer of oil, this deal obviously proved to be highly beneficial to both parties.