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Golden Eagle to Botswana?

A senior South Korean military delegation will visit Botswana next week to expand defense ties and seek opportunities to export home-made trainer jets to the resource-rich African country, Seoul's defense ministry said Monday.

A team of eight military, acquisition and Air Force officials, led by a two-star general, will make their first visit to Botswana from Nov. 23-28, the ministry said, in a move to boost sales of military aircraft.

The Korean delegation plans to meet Botswana officials and hold a business presentation on the T-50 supersonic trainer, built jointly by Korea Aerospace Industries (KIA) and U.S. aerospace giant Lockheed Martin, as well as the FA-50, a light attack variant of the T-50.

"The visit is aimed at providing government support to facilitate the export of the T-50 or the FA-50," a senior ministry official said on customary anonymity. "We hope the upcoming visit could help pave the way for South Korea to tap into Africa, expanding its overseas market focused in Southeast Asia, Latin America and Europe."

It is known that the Botswana government is seeking to acquire about 16 jets, with plans to receive a first batch of eight aircraft with no specific date yet to be decided, according to military officials.

The latest move comes as KAI, South Korea's sole aircraft maker, is stepping up its overseas marketing efforts to make inroads into emerging nations with growing defense needs.

Thailand is currently negotiating with KAI to buy T-50s and FA-50s, with plans to buy the first batch of nine jets out of the proposed purchase estimated at 16 aircraft, according to industry sources and military officials.

In addition, Seoul is set to export 12 FA-50s worth some US$450 million to the Philippines, expecting to sign a deal by the end of this year.

KAI has developed and manufactured aircraft such as the T-50, the FA-50, the KT-1 basic trainer and the indigenous light utility helicopter Surion, and have exported trainers to countries including Indonesia, Turkey and Peru.

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