South Korea's KAI sells fighter jets worth $1.1 billion to Iraq

T-50i advanced jet trainers are seen at the headquarters of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in Sacheon, about 440 km (273 miles) southeast of Seoul August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won
T-50i advanced jet trainers are seen at the headquarters of the Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in Sacheon, about 440 km (273 miles) southeast of Seoul August 14, 2013. REUTERS/Lee Jae-Won

SEOUL (Reuters) - South Korean defence contractor Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd (KAI) has signed a deal with Iraq to export 24 light fighter jets valued at $1.1 billion, the company said on Thursday. The deal to supply FA-50 aircraft also includes training for Iraqi pilots and other support for the Iraqi Air Force for the next two decades, which could push the total value of the deal to $2 billion, the contractor said in a statement. The FA-50 is a light attack variant of the T-50 Golden Eagle supersonic trainer that was co-developed by KAI and U.S. defence firm Lockheed Martin Corp. The Iraqi version of the FA-50, labelled the T-50 IQ, can be armed with air-to-air and air-to-surface missiles, machine guns and precision-guided bombs along with other munitions, KAI said. KAI has previously exported a T-50 variant to Indonesia and is pursuing deals with the Philippines and Chile. South Korea has been to capture a larger share of the global defence market with its fighter jets amid a projected sharp increase in demand for military equipment over the next decade. Delivery to Iraq will begin in April 2016 and will be made over a year, a company official said. (Reporting by Michelle Kim; Editing by Jack Kim and Matt Driskill)