S. Korea loses U.S. military trainer jet bid

September 28, 2018

SEOUL, Sept. 28 (Yonhap) — Korea Aerospace Industries, South Korea’s sole aircraft manufacturer, said Friday it lost a huge U.S. military training aircraft bid due to a big gap in the price it offered compared with Boeing Co.

The U.S. Air Force has selected Boeing over the KAI-Lockheed Martin Corp. consortium for its T-X trainer program, as the former submitted the lowest price — US$9.2 billion — a KAI spokesman said over the phone.

“Boeing’s bidding price was unbeatably low,” he said.

KAI didn’t provide its own bidding price for its supersonic jet.

Reflecting the loss, KAI’s shares plunged 29.8 percent to 35,100 won (US$32), while the broader KOSPI backtracked 0.52 percent in the trading session.

The KAI bid was not only about winning the U.S. project but also about the huge potential for further plane exports to other countries, analysts said.

The U.S. Air Force originally planned to spend US$19.7 billion, higher than the $16.3 billion forecast in the market, to replace 351 trainer jets with new ones, the spokesman for the aerospace company said.

KAI partnered with Lockheed Martin Corp. to offer the T-50A for the competition as Washington moves to upgrade its capability to train pilots for its fighter jets, bombers and other military aircraft.

At present, the U.S. relies on the nearly six-decades-old T-38 Talon to train its pilots.

To strengthen its presence in overseas plane markets, KAI said it will continue to make efforts to export multipurpose aircraft such as T-50, which is available both as a training and light attack airplane, in emerging markets like Latin America, Southeast Asia and Africa.

KAI's T-50A trainer jet (Yonhap)

KAI’s T-50A trainer jet (Yonhap)