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Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is set to develop a single-seat variant of its FA-50 light combat aircraft (LCA) in collaboration with both military and civilian sectors. This new iteration, estimated to cost $48 million for initial development, aims to capitalize on the growing market for affordable yet capable fighter jets.

The single-seat FA-50 will shed its rear seat, creating additional internal space for two key improvements. Firstly, the increased volume will allow for more fuel storage, potentially extending the aircraft’s range by 30%. Secondly, this space can be utilized for a ground collision avoidance system (GCAS), enhancing safety during operations.

This project isn’t entirely new. KAI previously explored a single-seat concept called the F-50, but it was sidelined in favor of the KF-21 fighter program. However, with the lightweight fighter market booming as nations seek cost-effective alternatives to heavyweight jets, the single-seat FA-50 presents a compelling option.

The single-seat FA-50 is poised to enter a competitive landscape against Indian LCA Tejas and the Pakistani JF-17 Thunder. These aircraft cater to a specific niche: countries seeking the capabilities of a full-sized fighter jet without the exorbitant acquisition and operational costs associated with top-tier models.

KAI’s decision to revisit the single-seat FA-50 indicates their confidence in the aircraft’s potential to capture a significant share of this growing market segment. With its extended range, potential for advanced safety features, and likely competitive price tag, the single-seat FA-50 could become a major player in the global fighter jet market.