In what was a close race between the Indian-made Hindustan Aeronautics Ltd (HAL) Tejas and Korea Aerospace Industries’ (KAI’s) FA-50 Fighting Eagle, it has been revealed that Malaysia will acquire 18 examples of the latter to fulfil the requirements set out in its Fighter Lead In Trainer-Light Combat Aircraft (FLIT-LCA) tender.
The awarding of this highly anticipated deal – which is reportedly worth approximately $920m – was announced by KAI on February 24. As per the contract, the South Korean aircraft manufacturing giant will produce and deliver an initial batch of 18 FA-50s for the Royal Malaysian Air Force (RMAF), with deliveries scheduled to begin in 2026.
The deal also includes an exercisable option for Malaysia to acquire a further 18 airframes – growing the fleet to 36 aircraft in total – at a later date. The RMAF examples are set to be delivered with several enhancements, including an air-to-air refuelling capability and an expanded weapons package.
Commenting on the selection, Kang Goo-young – president and CEO of KAI – said: “This export is the fruit of strengthening cooperation between the two governments. KAI will play a role as a long-term partner through defence cooperation as well as successful delivery and operational support of [the] FA-50.”
This selection marks a major win for KAI in the region, with Malaysia set to become the fourth regional export customer for the FA-50 after Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand all opted for the light multi-role fighter. While the decision was made following a closely tied race which resulted in a victory for KAI, it also marks a loss for HAL and its Tejas LCA, which has yet to secure a firm export customer. Kuala Lumpur launched its FLIT-LCA in June 2021 and along with the FA-50 and Tejas – which were the only two aircraft shortlisted – the tender attracted competitors that included the Chengdu Aircraft Industry Corporation-Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17 Thunder, Turkish Aerospace Hürjet and the Russian Aircraft Corporation MiG-29 Fulcrum.