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(LEAD) S. Korean Air Force chief to visit U.S. to help trainer jet bid

All Headlines 17:19 October 11, 2016

(ATTN: ADDS KAI spokesman comments in 5-6 paras)

SEOUL, Oct. 11 (Yonhap) -- The chief of South Korea's Air Force will visit the United States next month to help the country's sole aircraft manufacturer sell its advanced trainer jet to the U.S. military, officials in Seoul said Tuesday.

Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Jeong Kyeong-doo is planning to promote the T-50 trainer jointly developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) and Lockheed Martin Corp. when he meets his U.S. counterparts, the Air Force said in a parliamentary audit.

Washington is expected to begin the process later this year to select a preferred bidder to manufacture some 350 advanced trainer jets and aims to clinch a deal next year, an official said.

"When additional trainer demand from the U.S. Navy is taken into account, the combined order value could reach US$20 billion in the mega deal," he said.

KAI has developed the upgraded version of its existing T-50 trainer jet with an aim to export it to the U.S. market, a KAI spokesman said.

The country's only aircraft company has exported a total of 56 T-50 trainers and its variants mainly to four countries -- the Philippines, Indonesia, Iraq and Thailand, he said, refusing to disclose the overall value of the contracts.

This photo, taken on July 28, 2016, shows a T-50A trainer jet on a test flight after being jointly developed by KAI and Lockheed Martin. (Yonhap)

kyongae.choi@yna.co.kr
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