The Story behind the T/A-50 Golden Eagle Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT) for the Philippine Air Force

MANY PEOPLE have seen this review of mine in the Modernize the Philippine Air Force Facebook Page.  But I will be making a revised review of one of the most popular acquisition of our DND and AFP to date.

June 09, 2012 marks the historic day in the Philippine Defense, when our Department of National Defense announced that they had chosen the T/A-50 Lead-in Fighter Trainer (a variant of T-50 Golden Eagle) of South Korea as the best choice for the Advanced Supersonic Lead-in Fighter Trainer requirement of the Philippine Air Force.  This is the first time in decades that we will be getting Brand New Fast Jets since we bought our F-5s in the 1960s.

ImageThe TA-50 (formerly A-50) is a supersonic advanced jet trainer jointly developed by Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd. (South Korea) and Lockheed Martin (United States of America).  Highly derived from the F-16 Fighting Falcon, this aircraft was made because of the experience of KAI on building KF-16s and for the preparation on building their 5th generation aircraft, the KF-X.

During the Scarborough Shoal standoff between the Philippine and Chinese Vessels, Imageit was realized by the Filipino people how their Armed Forces is Imagepoorly equipped.  Before the standoff, there were only two Philippine Naval Ships that patrols Scarborough Shoal.  The WWII vintage BRP Rajah Humabon PF-11 Frigate (former USS Atherton) and the newly acquired 55 year old BRP Gregorio del Pilar PF-15 Frigate (former USCGC Hamilton) which is poorly armed because it only has a 76mm Oto Melara Naval Gun (as seen on the image).  And the Navy is also patrolling the Shoal using only their propeller-driven and defenseless BN-2 Islander Aircraft.  There was also an instance that there was a ImageUnknown Aircraft intruding our airspace during the stand off.  It was detected by the radar commissioned by the government for Civilian Passenger Aircrafts.  The officials said that the aircraft was traveling a HIGH SPEEDS and they just turned on their transponder when they were near the Chinese Ships in the Shoal.  The Philippine Air Force were so frustrated after this incident happened.  Because they know that someone is intruding our airspace and they cannot do anything but watch.  Our Air Force has only one Combat Aircraft, the S-211 Basic Jet Trainer, that can only go no more than 360 knots or 414 mph.

Concerned Filipinos were worried about the safety of our soldiers/sailors/airmen who are patrolling the area because they are VULNERABLE to attacks.  Patrolling the Chinese Warship infested waters, using only a propeller-driven aircraft and Digital Cameras on taking photos of the Vessels intruding our waters, is very dangerous.  Because you need fly low and to fly near the Chinese ships to take photos.  If a missile is fired at the Islander Aircraft of the Navy, the pilot and its crew will be history!  Because the Aircraft is slow, cant make hard turns, and they don’t have Missile Countermeasures like Chaff and Flares.  The Air Force cannot intercept Fighter Aircraft that are intruding our territory because they know for sure that if they go near 150 meters, they are absolutely dead.

Because of these circumstances, the Government realized the needs of the Military. One of them is anImage aircraft that can fly faster than speed of sound, intercept any intruders, can fire Air-to-Air and Air-to-Surface Missiles, and to dogfight with any flying thing that stands in its path.  So we turned into our oldest and mightiest ally, the United States.  We asked for 2 squadrons of F-16 But the U.S. knows that if they will arm us right now, this will anger China.  The U.S. owes China for about Trillions of Dollars, and they cannot afford to anger the Dragon right as of this moment.  They WILL fight the Dragon, but not now.  So the U.S. refused our request for F-16s (not publicly because they don’t want their allies to think that the U.S. doesn’t have a Word of Honor).

But they didn’t actually refused our request on helping us arm our Military.  Using the U.S. influence on other countries, they asked countries that is not fully relying in China to arm us instead (This part is just an observation on what really happened).  Then here goes Italy, South Korea, Russia, Czech Republic and even U.K. that bids to our needs for Lead-in Fighter Trainer.

But wait, there were so many Netizens complaining about the Lead-in Fighter Trainer.  They said, why Imageare we getting a LIFT?  Why don’t we just get a true Multi-Role Fighter?  The answer is simple, we lost our ability on flying fast jets.  There was a comment that I have seen in a forum saying, “Once you stop flying fighter planes, it is not easy to get that skill back. You need to go back to basics.”.  On my own opinion, he is right.  Most of our F-5 Fighter Pilots were now holding high ranks in the Military and some of them were already retired.  We can’t just put them back into the cockpit of a Fast-moving Jet.  Aside from flying a Fighter Jet, there are so many things to learn as well like Dogfighting since you need to learn how to do Air Combat Maneuvering, the pilots need to be familiarize themselves with the new and high-tech Avionics of a modern aircraft, learn to restrain G-Forces, and to Manage and Fire its Modern Armaments.  The facilities needs to be upgraded as well like the Hangars, and the ground crew needs to be trained on handling sophisticated Jets.  So that is why we need to get a LIFT first and then once our pilots mastered the art of aerial warfare, then we can move into the MRFs.

The contenders for the Lead-in Fighter Trainer are:

ImageM-346 Master (derived from Yak-130) – Italy (Alenia Aermacchi)

ImageYak-130 Mitten – Russia (Yakolev Design Bureau)

ImageBAE Hawk – United Kingdom of Great Britain and Northern Ireland (British Aerospace)

ImageT-50/TA-50 Golden Eagle – South Korea (Korean Aerospace Industries Ltd.)

The DND selected the South Korean Aircraft because it met the requirements of the Air Force for the LIFT.  One of the primary reason why this baby was selected is because it can go Supersonic while retaining the Armaments that the aircraft’s co-contenders have as well, like firing Air-to-Air Missiles, Rockets, Dumb and Cluster Bombs and Air-to-Surface Missile.

TA-50 Specifications from the Lockheed Martin Website and Wikipedia.Image

Length     43.1 ft /13.14 m
Height     16.2 ft /4.94 m
Wingspan     31 ft /9.45 m
Weight empty     14,00 lb /6,354 kg
Maximum weight     29,700 lb /13,500 kg
Speed     Mach 1.5
Engine thrust     17.700 lb /8,045 kg

Guns: 1× 20 mm (0.787 in) General Dynamics A-50 3-barreled rotary cannon
Hardpoints: Total: 7
Rockets: Hydra 70, LOGIR
Missiles: Air-to-air: AIM-9 Sidewinder
Air-to-ground: AGM-65 Maverick
Bombs: Mk 82, Mk 83, and Mk 84 general purpose bombs; CBU-97/105 sensor fuzed weapons.

CONCLUSION: On a final note, this is the best solution to the military’s needs, especially the Air Force needs.  It provides the quality training for the future MRFs, but at the same time giving us an Interception Capability because of its Speed and Air-to-Air Missile firing features.  But it still lacks something, the capability to dispense Missile Countermeasures like Chaff for Radar-guided Missiles AIM-120 AMRAAM and AIM-7 Sparrow, and Flares for Heat-seeking Infrared Missiles like the AIM-9 Sidewinder.  But in general, this is still a bad-ass aircraft. I do hope though, that we wont stick with this.  Just like what happened to the earlier version of the AFP Modernization Law when we bought the S-211s, after buying those aircraft, it stopped there and no further acquisition followed to augment the current Air Force fleet and to replace the F-5s.

So again, lets hope that the history wont repeat itself.  It will be possible for us to get an MRF, but without your support our dear countrymen, it will not happen!  As I have said on my last post, support your Armed Forces.  No funds or modern equipment can match the support of your own countrymen.

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  1. #1 by romaragregado on August 31, 2012 - 4:57 AM

    Forgot to mention the L-159 ALCA (Advanced Light Combat Aircraft) contender of the Czech Republic. It was also one of the candidates for the Lead-in Fighter Trainer bidding.

    Just an info.

  2. #2 by josh on September 3, 2012 - 1:20 PM


  3. #3 by josh on September 3, 2012 - 1:25 PM

    TA 50 is good but i go for yak130 because of its more hardpoint…. for MRF i go for grippen,a little bit cheap other than mrf and the maintenance is not expensive…i support the modernization of afp

  4. #4 by romaragregado on September 6, 2012 - 4:26 AM

    Havent you seen the report about all of the Fighters of the Euro Countries? The Gripen is well behind. And Yak-130? Nah… I’d still go fot TA-50. Yeah the 130 maybe has more hardpoints, but where are we going to use it? Coz we cant use it to the Rebels since it’s an overkill and we might reprimanded by the UN for doing that. We need an immediate interceptor, and since the TA-50 is supersonic, it’s fit for the role.

  5. #5 by Bobby Pablo on October 26, 2012 - 10:47 PM

    I just like to correct the age of USCG Ship Hamilton, it is not a 55 year old ship but a 45 year old ship. It was commissioned on March 18, 1967. It would be a more capable ship if the US didn’t take-out its existing surveillance radar and its CIWS. Anyhow the Phil. Govt should upgrade this ships (including USCG Dallas) it still has a lot of fight in them.

  6. #6 by jong on January 3, 2013 - 9:05 PM

    gogogogogo basta wala nang mag corrupt sa lahat nang pocurement.. gogoogogo

  7. #7 by Jeselito Cenabre on June 27, 2013 - 1:14 PM

    is it f/a-50 we choose cause its more capable than the t/a 50, it can carry AIM-20 and AIM-7 and capable for BVR. if we can have the f/a 50 then no need for and MRF.

  8. #8 by edwin on September 24, 2013 - 3:20 AM

    GO GO GO philippines military ang gusto kong makita sa barko ng navy ay may nakakabit na missile… sa lahat ng barko ng navy…

  9. #9 by neeko on June 1, 2014 - 5:14 PM

    The Philippine Government dapat tuunan ng pansin ang mga Filipino inventors and weapons manufacturer. It will be much cheaper rather than purchasing from different countries. Kung bibili sila dapat mag sagawa ng mga researchers ang gov,para pag-aralan ang mga new equipments and make our own jets, ships, weapons, technology and ETC. If kung successful many countries would rely on our technologies.

  10. #10 by Philippe John Salamanca on August 8, 2017 - 9:46 AM

    Correction, the DND chose the FA-50 (fighter/attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle) rather than the TA-50 (trainer/attack variant) because of its capability to do multiple roles like what other light Multi-Role Fighters do.

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