MANILA (PNA) --- The South Korean-made FA-50PH "Fighting Eagle" is capable of doing many missions for the Philippine Air Force (PAF).
This is probably why the previous administration has opted to acquire this aircraft, said Department of National Defense (DND) Secretary Delfin Lorenzana.
"The justification I see why the previous administration decided to acquire the FA-50PH is that it is a lead-in fighter aircraft which means it can be both use as a trainer and fighter," he added in Filipino.
Lorenzana said such configurations were necessary considering that PAF pilots had been without a modern fighter aircraft for a long time and they could be given sophisticated fighters like the F-15 "Eagle" without rigorous training.
The PAF has retired its fleet of Northrop F-5 "Tiger" fighter jets due to airframe ageing and lack of spare parts, forcing the service to convert its SIAI-Marchetti S-211 jet trainers for this role.
"It takes years to train fighter pilots, (we will use) the FA-50PHs first and then later if we have (financial) capabilities to purchase the real fighter planes, we will do that," he added.
The Philippines has a 12 FA-50PH order from Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) worth Php18.9 billion.
The first two units arrived last Nov. 28 with the remaining 10 to be delivered during 2016 and 2017.
The FA-50PHs have a top speed of Mach 1.5 or one and a half times the speed of sound and are capable of being fitted air-to-air missiles, including the AIM-9 "Sidewinder" air-to-air and heat-seeking missiles aside from light automatic cannons.
The "Fighting Eagle" will act as the country's interim fighter until the Philippines get enough experience of operating fast jet assets and money to fund the acquisition of more capable fighter aircraft.
Its design is largely derived from the F-16 "Fighting Falcon", and they have many similarities: use of a single engine, speed, size, cost, and the range of weapons.
KAI's previous engineering experience in license-producing the KF-16 was a starting point for the development of the F/A-50.
The aircraft can carry two pilots in tandem seating. The high-mounted canopy developed by Hankuk Fiber is applied with stretched acrylic, providing the pilots with good visibility, and has been tested to offer the canopy with ballistic protection against four-pound objects impacting at 400 knots.
The altitude limit is 14,600 meters (48,000 feet), and airframe is designed to last 8,000 hours of service.
There are seven internal fuel tanks with capacity of 2,655 liters (701 US gallons), five in the fuselage and two in the wings.
An additional 1,710 liters (452 US gallons) of fuel can be carried in the three external fuel tanks.
Trainer variants have a paint scheme of white and red, and aerobatic variants white, black, and yellow.
The FA-50PH uses a single General Electric F404-102 turbofan engine license-produced by Samsung Techwin, upgraded with a full authority digital engine control system jointly developed by General Electric and Korean Aerospace Industries.
The engine consists of three-staged fans, seven axial stage arrangement, and an afterburner.
Its engine produces a maximum of 78.7 kN (17,700 lbf) of thrust with afterburner.