SACHEON, South Korea: Malaysia is impressed with the progress and development achieved by South Korea in the aerospace industry, Prime Minister Tun Dr Mahathir Mohamad said.
Speaking during his visit to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) facility here, the Prime Minister said South Korea has made great strides in the highly-technological field since the last time he visited the country.
Mahathir’s last visit to South Korea as a prime minister was in 2002.
“I have always been interested in fighter planes and indigenous planes. I want to see how it performs and advances your aircraft industry,“ he told KAI’s CEO Ahn Hyun-ho who received him at the facility earlier.
A qualified pilot and an avid follower of aero technology, the Prime Minister arrived at the aerospace and defence facility by helicopter around 10.30am local time.
Sacheon is located about 100km from Busan, the host city of Asean-South Korea Commemorative Summit 2019, which Mahathir is scheduled to attend.
He spent more than two hours at the facility, which included attending a 30-minute long meeting with the company’s top officials.
Mahathir later toured the facility where he was briefed on KAI’s FA-50 Fighting Eagle light combat aircraft (LCA).
Also present during the visit was Foreign Affairs Minister Datuk Saifuddin Abdullah, International Trade and Industry Minister Datuk Ignatius Darell Leiking, Malaysian Ambassador to Korea Datuk Mohd Ashri Muda, and Malaysian Defence Attache in Seoul, Colonel Mohd Sobirin Mohd Yusof.
Malaysia is currently considering its option on LCA and is expected to formally launch a procurement effort to enable the air force to keep up with advanced technology and capability.
According to defence publication, Jane’s Defence Weekly, the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF) plans to procure up to 36 LCAs with an option for 26 more to complement its current batch of Hawks, Sukhoi SU-30MKM and FA-18D Hornets fighter jets.
Governmental approval is expected in the first quarter of 2020.
The LCA is expected to serve several roles in RMAF including as LCA and Lead-In Fighter Trainer (LIFT).
Among other types of LCA under consideration by RMAF besides Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) FA-50 Fighting Eagle, are the Hindustan Aeronautics Limited (HAL) Tejas; the Leonardo M-346; the Aero Vodochody L-39NG; the CAC L-15A/B; the CAC/PAC JF-17; the Saab Gripen; and the Yakovlev Yak-130. — Bernama