It is the shortest delivery period for KAI; the first two FA-50GF light combat aircraft units arrived in Poland last week and will be delivered to the Polish Air Force in early August after a final examination at the Polish Air Base in Minsk and an acceptance flight.
The delivery comes just one month after the KAI made the official request for the aircraft on June 7, in the presence of Poland’s Minister of National Defense, Mariusz Błaszczak.
At the time, the Polish Defense Minister told the media: “In September last year in Mińsk Mazowiecki, Poland, I had the pleasure and honor to approve the contract for the supply of the FA-50 light combat aircraft. The first units are already being delivered to Poland. This is an extremely important moment for the Air Force.”
The development is significant as the delivery of the aircraft comes at a time when the popularity of South Korea’s FA-50 is rising globally, especially among states looking to purchase cheaper, light fighters instead of expensive, heavy fighters.
It was in September 2022 that the Polish Ministry of National Defense signed two contracts to purchase 48 FA-50 light attack aircraft from South Korea. The first 12 aircraft were reported to be delivered in 2023, and an additional 36 aircraft between 2025 and 2028. Based on this schedule, Warsaw will receive ten more FA-50s before the end of this year.
The delivery of the aircraft was completed in record time, which has become a defining feature of South Korea’s booming defense industry. In December 2022, South Korea’s first shipment of tanks and howitzers was delivered to Poland months after Warsaw placed the order.
The delivery of the FA-50 within just ten months of signing the deal could bode well for the South Asian country’s defense sales. In May this year, KAI was awarded a contract from Malaysia to export 18 FA-50 light attack aircraft and is currently rolling out the FA-50 to other countries, including Argentina.
However, in a recent development widely covered by the Indian media, speculation is running high that the country would agree to buy the Indian LCA Tejas, considered a close competitor to South Korea’s FA-50 jet. Indonesia, Thailand and Iraq have purchased FA-50s, in addition to Malaysia and Poland.
However, while the delivery starting in record time may be good news for the KAI, it is even more important for the Polish Air Force, which has been searching for a fighter jet capable of reducing reliance on its aging Su-22 Fitter ground-attack jets and MiG-29 fighters.
The FA-50s come to add more teeth to the PAF.
The addition of GF (Gap Filler) to the designation of the aircraft to be delivered this year signifies its purpose to replace Poland’s obsolete fleet with this new group of advanced aircraft. KAI will provide 36 units of the upgraded FA-50PL variant from the second half of 2025 to 2028.
KAI claims that the FA-50PL has been modified with an improved Active Electronically Scanned Array (AESA), air-to-surface and air-to-air weaponry. It has also increased its range through air refueling.
This year, the delivery of 12 fighter jets would help keep Poland’s combat capability in check as it transferred some of its aging MiG-29 fighter jets to Ukraine to support Kyiv’s conflict with Russia.
The FA-50PL aircraft has been specially developed to excel in fighter training, especially for the latest fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-35. It stands out for its compatibility with Western aircraft, mainly the F-16. Poland wants to take full advantage of the FA-50PL’s capabilities to improve its fighter training programs and prepare its Air Force to use the F-35.
At the time of the aircraft’s deployment, Mariusz Błaszczak said: “This is an extremely important moment for the Air Force. We have post-Soviet aircraft, and from now on, Polish combat aviation will only use F-16 and FA-50 aircraft, and soon F-35 as well.
“These three types come from the same family of excellent modern aircraft. This is a great asset when building an interoperable air defense system and unified training system. Our pilots have completed their first FA-50 training in the Republic of Korea and will soon be ready to transition seamlessly to the new type of equipment.”
PAF pilots began training in South Korea on the KAI FA-50 in late February. According to Janes, on February 22, local media in Seoul reported that the first four PAF pilots had enlisted with the ROKAF 1st Fighter Wing in Gwangju and would finish a 23-week training course, which includes computer-based training as well as flights on the TA-50 trainer, before the end of July.