SEOUL --- Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) is facing a bumpy road in exporting its supersonic trainer jets for the United States Air Force amid a series of unfavorable news reports about its previous corruption scandal and relationship with the U.S. President Donald Trump's longtime personal lawyer.
Industry sources said Thursday the current climate of opinion may result in KAI's failure to win what would be its biggest defense contract worth $16 billion.
KAI is making a joint bid for the Advanced Pilot Training (APT) project, previously known as the T-X program, together with U.S. defense giant Lockheed Martin, to replace the U.S. Air Force's aging T-38 trainers.
With the Air Force planning to acquire 350 advanced trainers through the mega project, KAI is proposing its T-50A, the improved version of its T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer.
According to recent U.S. media reports, U.S. Secretary of the Air Force Heather Wilson said the APT project is due for selection in August at the latest.
The nation's sole aircraft manufacturer has claimed that the quality of its trainer jet has already been verified as it has experience in manufacturing more than 100 T-50s.
But competitors in the project, including Boeing, have been severely holding the KAI-Lockheed Martin team in check. Boeing teamed with Saab of Sweden to develop the BTX-1, which went through its test flight in December 2016, to participate in the bid.
A source familiar with the matter said that the competition seemed to be favorable to Boeing from the beginning as there has been general opinion in the U.S. that Boeing has to be given chances of winning contracts as Lockheed Martin has won most major projects by the U.S. military so far. (end of excerpt)
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