Barring any significant reversals (which still remain possible as of writing), the South Korean KAI Golden Eagle appears poised to become the most sophisticated combat aircraft ever to enter service with the Philippine Air Force. It is a 21st century aircraft that will mark the start of the age of Fly-By-Wire for the PAF. The Aermacchi AS-211, the long serving but ill-suited, basic-jet-trainer-turned-makeshift-multirole-fighter will no longer be the PAF’s solitary connection to the combat-jet age.
But aside from the technological advancements that will prepare the PAF for true Multi-Role Fighters (MRF) capability, what does the Geagle really bring to the table? Where does it put us in terms of capability? The answers require data that are not readily available in the public space. However we can glean some insight by comparing this aircraft with what previously was the most advanced fighter in PAF service: the Vought F-8 Crusader. This Vietnam War veteran gave the PAF true all-weather interception capability and featured the most capable avionics suite in a PAF fighter up to that point. It is therefore a fitting yardstick for capability enhancement.
The following table puts together a simplistic comparison of both aircraft. More data will be added to this table over time. There are many other factors that affect aircraft performance beyond what is apparent in the specifications listed here. However, the Geagle’s limited range and a prevailing lack of Beyond Visual Range (BVR) engagement capability are both readily apparent.
While the Geagle is heads and shoulders above the S211 in a combat role . . . a need for a more capable aircraft in the near future remains necessary to meet the threats of today. To quote a Timawan in the AFP: “We are doomed if accept a Lead-In Fighter Trainer as our frontliner”.
|Specification||F-8H Crusader||FA-50 Golden Eagle|
Photo c/o Vought
Photo c/o Korean Aerospace
|Length||54′ 3″||42′ 7″|
|Height||15′ 9″||15′ 8″|
|Wing area||375 sq. ft.||255 sq. ft.||Wingspan||35′ 8″||29′ 11″|
|Empty weight||16,483 lbs||14,285 lbs|
|Max take off weight||27,938 lbs||27,300 lbs|
|Powerplant||Pratt & Whitney J-57-P-4A||General Electric F404-102|
|Range||1,295 miles||999.46 miles|
|Speed||Mach 1.5+||Mach 1.5|
|Avionics||Magnavox AN/APQ-83 fire control radar||For the FA version. Actual specs for PAF may vary:IAI EL/M-2032 Fire Control Radar
Tactical Data-Link System
Fly-by-wire digital flight controls
Night Vision Imaging System (NVIS)
Hands-On Throttle and Stick (HOTAS)
Multifunction Displays (MFD)
|Armament||Four Colt Mk.12 20mm guns
|One 20mm M61 3-barrel cannon
|Beyond Visual Range(BVR) capability||None||Uncertain|
|In-flight refuelling||Yes||None (proposed)|