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Iraq signs $1.1 bn deal to buy S. Korean fighter aircraft
Published Thursday 12/12/2013 21:11
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SEOUL (AFP) -- Iraq signed a $1.1 billion deal Thursday to buy 24 multi-role light fighters from South Korea, officials said, in what will be the Asian nation's biggest arms export.

Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) said it would deliver the T-50IQ, a variant of its T-50 supersonic aircraft, to Baghdad between 2015 and 2016, under the terms of the deal signed in Seoul.

The company also said it expected to sign an additional $1.0 billion deal in 2014 to provide parts, equipment and pilot training for 20 years.

The T-50IQ is an advanced multi-role fighter that is equipped with precision-guided weapons, missiles and machine guns.

"It's the biggest order in the history of South Korea's arms exports," a KAI spokesman told AFP.

KAI officials hope the deal will help their company tap into the lower-end fighter market as they seek to expand the global outreach beyond Southeast Asia, Europe and South America, according to the South's Yonhap news agency.

It quoted KAI Chairman Ha Sung-Yong, who is now in Baghdad, as saying: "South Korea's aerospace industry has shown its competitiveness in the world market and its export potential."

The T-50 is South Korea's first home-built supersonic aircraft and one of the world's few supersonic trainers. After its maiden flight in 2002, the aircraft entered active service in 2005.

The trainer has been developed into combat and multi-role variants.

After its first overseas deal in 2011 to sell a T-50 attack variant to Indonesia, KAI has pursued additional export orders with Turkey and other countries. In October, the Philippines agreed to buy 12 fighters.

KAI was formed after South Korea's 1997 financial crisis as a joint venture of three companies specializing in arms production and aviation. It has launched various projects to produce military and civilian planes.
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