Malaysia has chosen Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) to provide 18 aircraft for its Fighter Lead-In Trainer-Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT-LCA) program for a contract worth $920 million. KAI will deliver the FA-50 Golden Eagle, which is a version of the T-50 trainer equipped with weapons, in 2026. The decision came after a competitive tender process that involved India’s Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) and their Tejas fighter jet.
Sources within Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) expressed disappointment after their Tejas fighter jetwas not selected for Malaysia’s LCA contract, despite being competitive on several criteria. Instead, the contract was awarded to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) for their FA-50 Golden Eagle, which has an established brand name and proven capabilities. The FA-50’s combat-tested service record, particularly during the 2017 Marawi campaign, was considered crucial for Malaysia’s air patrol and interception missions.
The acquisition of 18 FA-50s marks Malaysia’s first step in its Capability Development Plan 2055 (CAP55) roadmap, which aims to reduce operating costs by streamlining combat aircraft types from five to two (the MRCA and FLIT-LCA). The FLIT-LCA initiative could potentially lead to the procurement of another 18 FA-50s, bringing the total to 36 aircraft. KAI is also confident of securing an FA-50 deal with Egypt, marking its first foray into the African market.
A report in November 2022 had suggested that the contract for the Royal Malaysian Air Force could be won by the South Korean company, despite the fact that Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) had opened its first overseas office in Kuala Lumpur, the capital city of Malaysia. India’s LCA was a leading contender for the contract, as the Royal Malaysian Air Force was in the process of phasing out its old Russian MiG-29s. Other contenders included the JF-17 jointly developed by China and Pakistan, the Yak-130 from Russia, and the M-346 from Leonardo of Italy.