Korean Aerospace Industries’ T-50 advanced trainer 311.
(photo credit: Courtesy)
The competition to sell the Israel Air Force advanced combat trainers moved up a
notch this week after South Korean President Lee Myung-bak sent a letter to
President Shimon Peres regarding the deal, The Jerusalem Post has
In the letter, Lee praised the ongoing defense cooperation
between the two countries and referred to the trainer competition as an example
of how to strengthen those ties.
Last week, South Korea submitted an
industrial cooperation package to the Defense Ministry in a bid to win the
tender, which has received a great deal of media attention in recent months due
to the potential political ramifications Israel’s decision will
Korea has offered the T-50 Golden Eagle made by Korean Aerospace
Industries, which is competing against Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi M-346
The Korean proposal is believed to be for over $1.5 billion in
industrial cooperation for Israeli defense contractors if the Korean Aerospace
Industries plane is selected.
Peres and Lee met in June 2010 when the
Israeli president traveled to Seoul at the head of a large business delegation,
but the letter is the first time South Korea’s political leadership is known to
have brought up the competition with Israeli leaders.
is said to have lobbied Prime Minister Binyamin Netanyahu over the M-346 before
stepping down as Italy’s prime minister in late 2011.
The deal is for
some 30 aircraft – valued at just over $1 billion – which the IAF plans to use
to replace its aging fleet of A-4 Skyhawks, which are currently used to train
cadets during advanced pilot training.
Defense Ministry officials said
this week that a final decision was expected by the end of the month. The
ministry’s procurement department is scheduled to submit its recommendation to
Udi Shani, the director-general, who will make the final decision in
consultation with Defense Minister Ehud Barak.