The Israel Air Force has issued an official request for information from Korean and Italian aerospace companies for new training aircraft that pilot school cadets would use before advancing to combat jets.

The request was issued several weeks ago after it was delayed due to the Antitrust Authority’s concerns that a proposal for leading industries to buy the aircraft and lease them to the air force was illegal.

The two leading candidates to replace the Skyhawk are Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi M- 346 transonic trainer aircraft, in use in Italy and Singapore, and the Korean Aerospace Industries’ T-50 Golden Eagle.

The T-50 can carry two pilots and, with a high-mounted canopy and tandem seating, allows them superior visibility. It is one of the best trainers in the world. In recent weeks, IAF pilots have traveled to South Korea and Italy to fly the planes and evaluate their performance.

IAF sources said they were impressed by both aircraft.

According to one officer, the T-50 was particularly impressive because of its similarity to the F-16 fighter jet, which makes up the bulk of the IAF’s fleet.

The Skyhawk served prominently in the Yom Kippur War in 1973 and in the First Lebanon War in 1982, but has been used for the past 20 years or so as an advanced trainer for cadets in the IAF pilots’ course after they complete their initial flight training on turboprops.

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