KAI KT-1B Wongbee trainer aircraft (photo : Wiki)
As the Philippines Air Force (PAF) is receiving high performance combat aircraft to rejuvenate and modernise its fleet, so to the need to have a more capable basic training aircraft that fills in the gap to train new generation pilots to fly aircraft such as the Embraer A-29B Super Tucano Counter Insurgency (COIN) aircraft, the KAI FA-50 Fighting Eagle Lead In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) and the winner of Multi Role Fighter (MRF) program which could be either the LockheedMartin F-16V Viper or the SAAB JAS-39C/D Gripen.
The locally assembled SF-260 Warrior side by side trainer is simply outdated and ill suited for new generation Air Force. All of ASEAN operators namely Brunei, Singapore and Thailand have shed their respective SF-260 with better training platform such as Pilatus PC-7Mk II, Pilatus PC-21 and Raytheon T-6 Texan II.
In order to match the training quality disparity, it is said that several types of training aircraft have been studied by PAF. It is widely believed that there is a need for 12 new aircraft in training role. In the end, it has been recently reported that KAI KT-1 Wongbee will be procured once green light has been given by the Government (of course budget permitted too).
SIAI Marchetti SF-260 Warrior (photo : PAF)
Procuring the KT-1B is of course a logical choice. With tandem seat arrangements, the KT-1B provide seamless transition to student pilots destined to fly the FA-50. They will fly the PADC built SIAI Marchetti S.211 jet trainer to give them a feel of flying jet aircraft but will rely on experience of flying in the KT-1B which has similar cockpit layout once already in the cockpit of the FA-50.
Buying another South Korean made defence product would further boost the relationship between the two countries.
It is not only those who will fly the FA-50 would benefit from the KT-1B procurement. Pilots selected to fly the A-29B would find their time on tandem seating configuration and high speed turboprop aircraft such as the KT-1B crucial to help them to fly the much faster but similarly turboprop driven Super Tucano, procured by the PAF to replace the ageing Rockwell OV-10F Bronco COIN aircraft.