By Priam F. Nepomuceno
MANILA, March 30 (PNA) — Aside from having the capability to defend and protect the country's airspace against hostile intruding aircraft, the F/A-50 "Fighting Eagle" is also capable of conducting maritime strike missions.
This was confirmed by Department of National Defense (DND) undersecretary Patrick Velez at the sidelights of the signing of the P18.9 billion F/A-50 contract Friday.
This refers to the capability to attack targets (e.g. ships) in the high seas.
Velez said that the F/A-50s can be configured to do this role by installation of weapons and sensors designed for this function.
The F/A-50 has provisions for anti-ship missiles, stand-off weapons, and sensors, he said.
Aside from this, the aircraft is fitted with three-barrel cannon version of the M-61 Vulcan internally behind the cockpit, which fires linkless 20 mm ammunition.
Velez said its wingtip rails can accommodate the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air missile.
Compatible air-to-surface weapons include the AGM-65 "Maverick" missile, Hydra 70 and LOGIR rocket launchers, CBU-58 and Mk-20 cluster bombs, and Mk-82, −83, and −84 general purpose bombs, he said.
The Philippines and Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd (KAI) signed the P18.9 billion agreement last Friday.
DND undersecretary Fernando Manalo said that the first two F/A-50 jet aircraft will be delivered 18 months after the opening of the letter of credit, the next two delivered 12 months later and the remaining eight jet planes to be delivered in staggered basis within eight months.
The F/A-50 has a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and half times the speed of sound and is capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.
The F/A-50 will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines gets enough experience in operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.
The F/A-50 design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.
KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.
The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.
The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.
There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.
An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The F/A-50 "Fighting Eagle" uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and KAI.
The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.
The aircraft has a maximum speed of Mach 1.4-1.5.
Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner. (PNA)