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Air Force to deploy 20 TA-50 light attack aircraft by next year
SEOUL, June 2 (Yonhap) -- The Air Force plans to deploy some 20 new aircraft that are designed to carry out a lead-in fighter training mission and light attack roles by the first half of next year, officials said Thursday.

   South Korea rolled out the first armed version of its T-50 supersonic trainer jet in January and has deployed the TA-50 in stages since then.

   "The deployment of the TA-50 allows the Air Force to establish lead-in fighter training with homegrown jets," Air Force officials said.

   The Air Force unveiled the TA-50 to the media on Thursday for the first time at an air base in Yecheon, North Gyeongsang Province.

   The TA-50 is also intended for a full-fledged attack platform as it can carry precision-guided weapons such as AIM-9 Sidewinder air-to-air missiles and TGM-65 Maverick air-to-ground missiles, according to the official.

   From 2012, South Korea will also begin deploying a more heavily armed version of the T-50. Named the FA-50, the multirole fighter jet is comparable to the KF-16, he said.

   Jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, South Korea's sole aircraft maker, and U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, South Korea unveiled the T-50 "Golden Eagle" in 2005, making the country the world's 12th supersonic jet producer.

  
TA-50 light attack aircraft (Yonhap file photo)


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