SEOUL -- Korea Aerospace Industries Ltd. (KAI), South Korea's sole aircraft manufacturer, said Friday it has won a 1.2 trillion-won (US$920 million) aircraft deal from Malaysia, with the delivery set to begin in 2026 reported South Korea based Yonhap news agency.

KAI signed the deal with the Malaysian defence ministry to export 18 FA-50 light attack aircraft, beating India's TEJAS. HAL TEJAS was the only other aircraft on the final shortlist.

The requirement soon attracted an eclectic group of contestants. In addition to the FA-50 & HAL TEJAS, rivals for the deal comprised the Chengdu-Pakistan Aeronautical Complex JF-17, RAC MiG-29, and the Turkish Aerospace Hurjet.

”This export is the fruit of strengthening cooperation between the two governments,” says KAI president and chief executive Kang Goo-young. “KAI will play a role as a long-term partner through defence cooperation as well as successful delivery and operational support of FA-50.”

Including Malaysia, KAI says it has sold 120 T-50 variants. Customers include Indonesia with 22, Iraq with 24, the Philippines with 12, and Poland with 48. The T-50 and FA-50 are also in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force.

It is the fourth time for KAI to sign an aircraft deal with a Southeast Asian country after Indonesia, the Philippines and Thailand, the statement said.

With the latest deal, KAI has exported 68 KT-1 basic and T-50 advanced trainer jets, as well as FA-50 aircraft, to Southeast Asian markets.

Globally, it has obtained deals to supply 222 aircraft to countries, which also include Iraq, Poland, Peru and Senegal.

KAI also expects to win a deal to provide another 18 FA-50s to Malaysia as the Southeast Asian country plans to beef up its aircraft fleet.

It aims to expand exports of its aircraft to the Middle East, Africa, Australia, the United States and other markets.