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S. Korea to mass-produce armed version of trainer jet starting in 2013
SEOUL, Nov. 4 (Yonhap) -- South Korea will begin mass production of an armed model of its supersonic trainer jet starting in 2013, the state procurement agency said Friday.

   The Defense Acquisition Program Administration (DAPA) said it will finalize a deal within this year so that the first armed version of the T-50 trainer jet, dubbed the FA-50, will be delivered to the Air Force by August 2013. Sources said up to 60 FA-50 jets will be produced by 2016.

   FA-50s are designed to fill the void left by outdated Air Force fighters, such as the A-37 and F-5. Officials say the multirole FA-50 is comparable to KF-16 aircraft.

   Separately, the DAPA said it will select the winner of its project to acquire 60 fifth-generation fighter jets in October next year, after posting a public notice of the invitation to bid in January and reviewing proposals in June.

   Candidates for the 8.29 trillion won (US$7.46 billion) project have been narrowed down to four models: the F-15SE Silent Eagle by Boeing, F-35 Lightning II by Lockheed Martin, Eurofighter Typhoon by the European Aeronautic Defense and Space Company (EADS) and the T-50 PAK-FA by Russian firm Sukhoi.

   "We will weigh in all factors, such as performance, costs, suitability with our military deployment and technology transfer," a DAPA official said. "We will make a decision that is in the best interest of the country."

   He said the Air Force will continue to review whether to make internal weapons carriage a requirement for the candidates. A fighter jet's ability to load weapons internally away from enemy eyes is considered an important part of its stealth capabilities.

   Meanwhile, the DAPA said it will also select the winners of bids for AH-X attack helicopters and maritime helicopters in October next year.

   jeeho@yna.co.kr
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