Modern military air services rely on many training platforms when graduating airmen from the classroom to the cockpit. From general instruction comes basic flight training and this phase is typically accomplished through the tried-and-true, prop-driven aircraft seating two (instructor and student). The KAI KT-1 "Wong-bi" is such an aircraft and is a product of local South Korean industry. A first-flight was recorded in November of 1991 and production (ongoing since 1999) has yielded over 175 examples to date (2017). Once adopted, the KT-1 became the first, wholly-designed and developed indigenous South Korean aircraft and has since been committed to by the nations of Indonesia, Peru, Senegal and Turkey in various numbers.
The KT-1 was born under the local "KTX" program of the late-1980s and the development contract was given to Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). Computer-aided design was used in bringing the KTX to life and the result was a highly-conventional, all-modern basic trainer in the KT-1. The program encompassed nine total prototypes and deliveries to the South Korean Air Force followed in 2000. The service received 85 total KT-1 models and 20 KA-1 models (detailed below).
The KT-1 showcases a length of 33.7 feet with a wingspan of 34.8 feet and height of 12 feet. Its empty weight is 4,200lb against a Maximum Take-Off Weight (MTOW) of 7,300lb. Power is from a Pratt & Whitney Canada PT6A-62 turboprop engine of 950 horsepower output driving a four-bladed propeller unit at the nose. Performance specifications include a maximum speed of 360 miles per hour, a range out to 830 miles and a service ceiling of 38,000 feet. Rate-of-climb is 3,180 feet per minute.
As designed, the KT-1 features its crew of two seated in tandem (the instructor to the rear) under a lightly-framed single-piece cockpit canopy. The cockpit is set aft of the nose assembly housing the engine. The wing mainplanes are straight appendages with clipped tips and mounted under the cockpit. Each mainplane exhibits noticeable dihedral (upward angle). The empennage is traditional, sporting a single rudder with low-set horizontal planes. The tricycle undercarriage is wholly retractable, each leg being single-wheeled.
The production run of the Woong-bi has expanded to include several notable variants: KTX-1 "Yeo-myung" was used to designate prototypes and these were powered by PWC PT6A-25A series turboprops of 550 horsepower. Then followed the production-minded KT-1 with PWC PT6A-62 engines of 960 horsepower with slightly revised tail unit. The KA-1 was developed as an advanced trainer with attack capabilities built-in and the cockpit was given Head-Up Display (HUD) as well as Multi-Function Displays (MFDs). In addition to this, five hardpoints were added for ordnance-carrying that support weaponry up to air-launched missiles.
Export models became the KT-1B, KT-1T and KT-1P meant for Indonesia, Turkey and Peru, respectively. The KA-1P is the armed export model of the Peruvian KT-1P trainer. The KT-1C is an improved, export-minded attacker with FLIR, a complete defense suite (chaff/flare dispenser) and support for gunpods, drop bombs, rockets and missiles.
In today's changing battlefield landscape, dual-role aircraft like the KT-1 have grown in value, particularly with the rise in insurgencies across the globe. They represent a budget-conscious alternative to more expensive, technology-laden platforms and the market for basic trainers is becoming saturated with similar lightweight designs emerging from the United States, Europe and elsewhere. As such, the global foothold of the Korean-made KT-1 is of note.