The Philippine Air Force had completed the maiden flight of its first FA-50PH on June 19. Originally, the FA-50PH was developed as a trainer known as the T-50 by Seoul-based Korea Aerospace Industries. It was modified into an attacker for the Philippine Air Force with the capabilities to carry up to 4.5 tons of weapons as well as a wide-ranging armament system. Equipped with AGM-65 air-to-surface missiles, cluster bombs and rocket launchers, the aircraft is designed primarily for close air support operations.
Despite the growth of economic interdependence between Beijing and Seoul, South Korea decided to sell its fighter to the Philippines, a potential enemy of China, because it wants to expand its own overseas arms market. Various developing nations in Southeast Asia and the Middle East are all considered partners as South Korea aims to strengthen its own defense industry. To develop its own fifth-generation stealth fighter, Seoul is also seeking cooperation from Indonesia and Turkey.
The Sina Military Network later claimed in its piece that the Philippine Air Force's FA-50PHs are unable to compete against China's air defense systems which it established over its artificial islands in the South China Sea. They will also face the challenges presented by the PLA Navy's Type 052C guided-missile destroyers and J-11BH fighters deployed to Fiery Cross island. The Chinese military website said that the FA-50PH can not do any serious damage to China's future carrier battle group.
The Korea Aerospace Industries first FA-50PH for the Philippine Air Force successfully performed its maiden flight.