The T-50 was developed by Korea Aerospace Industries, Ltd., with cooperation and global marketing support from Lockheed Martin. Both firms were aware that many training aircraft fleets are aging, even as higher-performance fighters demand trainer aircraft that can keep up. The Korean government needed a fleet of trainers, and saw an opportunity to give their aerospace sector a strong boost in the process. Total investment in the T-50’s RDT&E program amounted to more than $2 billion: 70% from the Korean government, 17% from KAI, and 13% from Lockheed Martin.
With a length of 43 feet and a wingspan of 30 feet, the 2-seat T-50 is about 4 feet shorter than the F-16; overall, it’s only about 80% of the F-16’s size. The relative size of the control surfaces and tails are larger, however, to improve handling characteristics at lower speeds and make the aircraft easier to land. Larger landing gear is also fitted, to absorb harder landings, which is to be expected from student pilots. Its form’s resemblances to Lockheed Martin’s F-16 are suggestive, and include the blended mid-set wing, complete with leading-edge root extensions and rear ‘shelf’ fairings ending in F-16-style split airbrakes.