in Defence / Features

South Korea's Eagle swoops on Botswana

Posted 10 April 2018 · Add Comment

South Korea’s Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) has mounted a renewed effort to sell its FA-50 Golden Eagle lightweight fighter to the Botswana Defence Force (BDF).

The BDF is seeking a new fighter aircraft to replace its legacy Canadair CF-5 Freedom Fighters.
Botswana Defence Minister, Ramadeluka Seretse, and other BDF officials originally had talks with KAI in November 2013, discussing the possible acquisition of T-50 and FA-50 aircraft. President Ian Khama subsequently visited South Korea and KAI in October 2015.
But, in 2016, Botswana’s interest seemed to have shifted to Saab’s JAS-39C/D, with reports that Sweden had offered eight to twelve JAS-39C/D Gripen fighters at a reported cost of $1.7 billion. President Khama visited Sweden between June 19 and 21, meeting Swedish Prime Minister, Stefan Lofven, and visiting Saab’s facilities, where he was briefed on the Gripen.
In August, Botswana’s Sunday Standard newspaper reported that it had been passed KAI’s latest proposal to the BDF. Titled “FA-50 for the Botswana Defence Force: The right choice for the future” and dated May 2017, the document included claims that the Gripen’s life-cycle cost was “three times” that of the FA-50, with higher acquisition and operating costs.
Though KAI highlight the FA-50’s proven weapons capability, the aircraft’s operational capabilities do not match those of the Gripen, which offers longer combat radius, payload/range and ferry range and significantly greater radar and weapons capabilities – though KAI claims that the FA-50’s radar, avionics and weapons suite are comparable to the Gripen C/D, HAL Tejas and PAC JF-17 Thunder.
A Gripen buy would confer a high degree of interoperability with Botswana’s neighbour, South Africa, which also operates the JAS-39C/D, and this could allow the BDF to take advantage of South Africa’s Gripen training and maintenance, repair and overhaul (MRO) infrastructure.
On the other hand, the FA-50 would offer an ability to undertake both combat and training missions, or would give useful synergy with the near-identical T-50 advanced trainer, should Botswana purchase the aircraft.
The Golden Eagle has gained export orders from Iraq, Indonesia and Thailand in its T-50 trainer form, while the FA-50 light fighter variant has been ordered by the Philippines.
 

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