Iraq may be on track to become the first export customer for South Korea’s T-50 Golden Eagle family of supersonic jet trainers and lightweight fighters. But the KAI/Lockheed Martin plane ran into a familiar set of international competitors, plus one dark horse contender. In the end, the dark horse won. Iraq will begin flying Czech L-159s in 2013, and begin receiving the main body of the order in 2014.
Iraq’s basic trainer purchase was Hawker Beechcraft’s T-6 Texan II, but a jet trainer is required as an interim step between the T-6 and more advanced planes like the F-16s that Iraq is buying. DJ Elliott of ISF Order of Battle says that South Korea’s TA-50 was suggested in fall 2007 to the Iraqi Ministry of Defense, by MNSTC-I’s Coalition Air Force Transition Team. Other contenders can also be equipped as light attack jets, albeit without the same loaded supersonic capabilities. Iraq evidently decided that was good enough.