Revised November 25, 2013. See bottom of the page for the complete revision history
It now looks like the Philippine Air Force’s (PhAF) acquisition of the FA-50 Golden Eagle is a GO, and all that is missing now is the formal announcement, which is likely to be done during PNoy’s State Visit to South Korea on Oct. 17-18, 2013. A critical clue to this is thru the PhAF Air Defense Wing’s Journal announcing that, “… the initial delivery of 2 new fighter aircraft in 2014 …”, and they then go on to show this training plan, citing the FA-50 SPECIFICALLY:
Of course a lot could still happen between now and the formal announcement, but as of now I think the FA-50 deal is 99% sure already barring any major catastrophe or event that will affect the announcement. Hence, let’s take a close look at how the FA-50 compares with major threats it could be facing, like China’s SU-30MKK/MK2 Flanker-G fighter aircraft, for example.
The SU-30MKK is made by the Russian Federation’s “Sukhoi Company”, and is the export version of the SU-30 aircraft in service with the Russian Air Force, as indicated by the “K” on its “SU-30MKK” designation. It is an improved version of the SU-27 Flanker, and is China’s most capable combat aircraft right now. It is described as a heavy, long-range, all-weather strike fighter. China ordered 76 aircraft which were delivered between 2000-2003, and in case of any war, it will be China’s main frontline aircraft.
The SU-30MK2 is the maritime version of the SU-30MKK intended for use by China on its carrier fleet if ever they do get to finally field them. It differs from the SU-30MKK mainly in terms of the avionics used. China has 24 of these, first delivered in 2004.
In contrast, the FA-50 Golden Eagle (or “Geagle”) is just a “light” Multi-Role Fighter (MRF) which the PhAF will task as its main combat aircraft against all threats, at least until a better MRF comes along (like possibly South Korea’s KF-X MRF programme, for example). The Geagle will still be a major improvement over the AS-211 which the PhAF has tasked as the country’s main combat aircraft during the last 8 years since 2005. Once the FA-50 arrives, the AS-211 will likely be slowly pulled out from combat duty to focus more on its designed role as a Basic Jet Trainer.
For the “Maneuverability” and “Payload and Range” sections, the following considerations were made:
– Weights with 100% internal fuel was used to try to simulate the aircraft going into combat with full internal fuel after dropping their External Fuel Tanks.
– The weights of the armaments were not included as the RATIOS and DIFFERENCES BETWEEN BOTH aircraft will remain the same if they will be armed with the same type and same number of armaments.
– Fuel density of 0.81 kg/l was used to convert fuel capacity to kilograms
– Data for each aircraft was derived from various websites at .
For both aircraft’s maneuvering capability, I am looking at their WING LOADING* and THRUST TO WEIGHT RATIO*. I would’ve wanted to take a look at more aspects like Stalling Speed, Maximum Alpha, etc., but those data are hard to come by for both aircraft. Hence, these should suffice for now. Remember that a lower Wing Loading means the aircraft can turn tighter and vice-versa, and a higher Thrust-to-Weight Ratio means the aircraft can go faster going straight up or straight down and vice-versa.
– Wing Loading: Favors the Geagle with its 17% lower wing loading
– Thrust to Weight Ratio: Even for both aircraft at around .93-.94
+++ A very surprising result with Geagle being more maneuverable overall than the Flanker-G. The problem is that while the Flanker-G has much bigger wings and engines, it also is a much heavier aircraft, hence all that advantage is lost. The higher weight of the Flanker-G will be an advantage in other areas (as we shall see later), but not in terms of maneuverability.
‘Payload and Range’
Payload and Range doesn’t really mean much as we are comparing each aircraft against each other with no plans of acquiring the Flanker-G, but since the data is there, might as well do it. And also so we can see where all of the Flanker-G’s advantage goes. For Range, I am using INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION (INTFF)* as a rough indicator how far each aircraft can go based on the internal fuel available to them.
– INTFF difference: Favors the Flanker-G by 56%, indicating it can travel 56% farther than the Geagle for the same engine fuel efficiency.
– Payload difference: Favors the Flanker-G as it can carry 117% (4,320 kg) more load.
+++ Here we can see where the Flanker-G’s size advantage goes. It can travel much further as it carries more internal fuel (9,400 kg versus 2,150 kg), and its heavier but more powerful engines allow it to carry much more equipment and arms (8,000 kg versus 3,680 kg). Hence, the Flanker-G is a much better OFFENSIVE weapon than the Geagle will ever be. However, for DEFENSIVE purposes, which the Geagle will be tasked for, the Geagle will suffice with its modest range and payload.
‘Air Combat-related Avionics and Weapons’
Here I am comparing the capability of both aircraft in terms of Within Visual Range (WVR) and Beyond Visual Range (BVR) air combat thru their Avionics and Weapons available to them. Just some notes, though:
– The Geagle’s Radar Cross-Section (RCS) is only ASSUMED to be 80% that of the F-16 as no reliable data is available for it, and that the Geagle is about 80% the size of the F-16.
– RCS data are for “clean” aircraft, with no armaments or fuel tanks
– Other data were taken from these websites:
– WVR COMBAT: Here the Geagle is at an extreme disadvantage as it does not have the default mandatory avionics nowadays to be competitive in close-range air combat like a Helmet Mounted Sight and High Off-Boresight missiles
– BVR COMBAT: Favors the Flanker-G as the Geagle does not have the capability to use medium range air to air missiles yet. A huge radar advantage for the Flanker-G also as it can detect the Geagle 130% or 71 km farther than the Geagle can detect the Flanker-G, which is only at 55 km. The Flanker-G also has the advantage of an IRST sensor which will be useful in certain tactical situations
+++ Here we can see that despite the fact that the Flanker-G has a much larger RCS than the Geagle, it also has a much, much more powerful Zhuk-MSE/Sokol radar. The Geagle might have a small RCS, but its EL/M-2032 radar is not as powerful, hence giving a huge advantage to the Flanker-G in detecting the Geagle first.
+++ The Flanker-G’s IRST is useful in a limited number of situations as it will enable the Flanker-G to sneak up on its opponents without using its radar (whose emissions can be detected) and fire the first shot if necessary. However it does have limitations, it has a much shorter range than the Flanker-G’s radar at only around 35 km for head on targets, which can be further reduced under certain atmospheric conditions
The data shows that the Geagle can be competitive with the Flanker-G in a maneuvering combat, but this advantage is lost because of its lack of a Helmet Mounted Sight and inability to carry High Off Boresight missiles, enabling the Flanker-G to have a lot more opportunities to fire its weapons first. It also is no match against the Flanker-G in BVR combat as it is not yet certified to carry medium range air to air missiles as of this writing. It would be nothing short of SUICIDE to ask our Geagle pilots to try to engage the Flanker-G in any sort of air combat given its deficiencies against that aircraft.
This just highlights the need for a better fighter aircraft like perhaps the JAS-39C Gripen to defend our territorial airspace against advanced Chinese aircraft like the Flanker-G. We will still be needing the Geagle as it would serve as an effective Lead In Fighter Trainer (LIFT) or INTERMEDIATE Trainer so our pilots can SAFELY transition from flying our Basic Jet Trainer, the AS-211 to more advanced aircraft like the Gripen C.
Aside from that, the Geagle also has excellent ground/surface attack capability even during night or adverse weather, something we have not had before with our previous aircraft like the F-5A Freedom Fighter or the OV-10 Broncos.
If the FA-50 is, indeed, in the bag, could the KF-X be far behind?
 PNoy to visit South Korea, http://www.abs-cbnnews.com/nation/09/27/13/pnoy-visit-south-korea
 Philippine Air Force Air Defense Wing “Jet 14-16” September 2013 Journal No. 7, page 24, http://www.paf.mil.ph/DOWNLOADS/ADW%20Journal%20-%20preview%20(1).pdf
 SU-30MKK, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Sukhoi_Su-30MKK
 Su-30MKK Specifications, http://www.sinodefence.com/airforce/fighter/su30specifications.asp
 FA-50 Specifications and Features, http://www.koreaaero.com/english/product/fixedwing_t-50.asp
 Army and Weapons – Deadly KAI T-50 Golden Eagle, http://deadlyweapons-army.blogspot.com/2011/11/deadly-kai-t-50-golden-eagle.html
 KAI FA-50, http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iXauYBgqnHw
 Su-30MK2, http://www.knaapo.ru/eng/products/su-30mk2/index.wbp
 Which Fighter Plane is the No:1 in the Indian Subcontinent in the BVR(Beyond Visual Range) arena?, http://www.angelfire.com/falcon/fighterplanes/texts/articles/bestfighter.html
 Fighter Mig-21 Fishbed, http://www.enemyforces.net/aircraft/mig21.htm
 KAI contracts for serial production of the FA-50, http://www.koreaaero.com/english/pr_center/cpr_view.asp?pg=1&seq=25400&bbs=10
 OLS-35 IRST option for Su-30 family, http://igorrgroup.blogspot.com/2009/10/ols-35-irst-option-for-su-30-family.html
–> WING LOADING = is the amount of weight the wing supports during flight, and is expressed in weight per area, or in the metric system, kg/m^2. This is computed by: (Wing Area divided by Weight). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Wing_loading
–> THRUST TO WEIGHT RATIO = means how much power the aircraft has compared to its weight, and is expressed by a simple number. This is computed by: (The maximum thrust of the aircraft’s engine divided by weight). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Thrust_to_weight_ratio
–> INTERNAL FUEL FRACTION = is the weight of the internal fuel the aircraft compared to its maximum take-off weight, and is expressed by a simple number. Formula used is: (Maximum internal fuel capacity divided by maximum take off weight). http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Fuel_fraction
* October 6, 2013: Originally posted
* November 9, 2013: Changed references and data for the FA-50 Golden Eagle as better data from the manufacturer has finally become available. Some computations based on these data has also changed.
* November 25, 2013: Revised data for Avionics and weapons for the Geagle as a more accurate reference was found.