History will be made at RAF Fairford in Gloucestershire this summer when the South Korean Black Eagles become the first fixed wing aerobatics display team from Asia to perform in Europe.
The team, comprising eight T-50 ‘Golden Eagle’ supersonic light-trainer aircraft, will make their debut at the Royal International Air Tattoo on July 7-8.
Their visit is the culmination of more than 20 years’ planning by the airshow organisers, who first contacted the Republic of Korea’s London embassy in the mid-1980s.
Air Tattoo Chief Executive Tim Prince said: “Each year we would visit the embassy to build relations and explain the background to our event. Finally, in 2002, we had a breakthrough when the Republic of Korea Air Force (RoKAF) sent some of their pilots and senior military representatives to experience the airshow first hand – and they have been back most years ever since. It is a great honour for us to host their visit – and we’re pleased for the UK aircraft enthusiast community who will, I’m sure, be relishing the thought of seeing such rare visitors.”
In order to get the aircraft – 10 in total, including two spares – they will have to be dismantled in Asia and flown the 5,000 mile journey in a fleet of large transport aircraft before being reassembled in the UK.
The T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in response to the increased demands on future trainer aircraft to keep up with higher-performance military fighters such as the Typhoon, the F-22 and the Joint Strike Fighter.
Classic Aircraft magazine editor Ben Dunnell said: “It’s no coincidence that the T-50’s manufacturer KAI should be so keen to put this very capable advanced jet trainer on display at the airshow, given the number of potential deals for such aircraft in discussion amongst the world’s air arms, many of whose chiefs now attend the Air Tattoo. With key competitors such as the BAE Systems Hawk and the Russian Yakovlev Yak-130 also due to participate, RIAT 2012 will be an important stage for jet trainer manufacturers.”
The Republic of Korea’s Defence Attaché in the UK, Captain Chong-Ho Choi, said he was delighted his country’s air force pilots could demonstrate their flying capabilities in Europe for the first time. He said: “The Black Eagles are extremely proud to be representing the Republic of Korea Air Force. Their aim will be to perform the best flying display possible not only for the People of the Republic of Korea but also for the rest of the world. It is privilege to be taking part in this summer’s Royal International Air Tattoo and I hope everyone will enjoy our magnificent display.”
Red Arrows team leader, Squadron Leader Jim Turner, said: “On behalf of the Royal Air Force and the Red Arrows, I am delighted to welcome the South Korean Display Team, the Black Eagles both to the United Kingdom and the Royal International Air Tattoo. The opportunity to engage with other highly respected professional display teams is always an exciting opportunity and one we look forward to.”