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T-X Advanced Trainer - Competitors

Bill Sweetman wrote in ShowNews June 15, 2015 that "The U.S. Air Force’s T-X requirement, seeking a replacement for the Northrop Grumman T-38, has been evolving steadily since the first industry teams formed in 2010-11 – in the direction of a bigger and more expensive aircraft.... As it did with its last all-new trainer, the Joint Primary Aircraft Training System (JPATS) that led to the Textron Beechcraft T-6, the Air Force started with the premise that there were lots of trainers in the world and that there was no need for a new airplane. As happened with JPATS, it has moved away from that position.... the RFI’s sustained g requirement (a threshold of 6.5 g and an objective of 7.5 g, with 80% fuel at 15,000 ft.) that eliminated the BAE Systems Hawk and the Alenia Aermacchi M346. Alenia’s partnership with General Dynamics broke up after the RFI was released... T-X has become more fighter-like because Air Combat Command has embraced the idea of “downloading” – moving training time and events from fighters to trainers. The complexity and cost of the F-22 and F-35, and the fact that they have no two-seat versions, is important..."

For the forthcoming T-X program to replace 450 USAF Northrop T-38 Talon trainers, the Alenia Aermacchi M-346, in its proposed US market guise as the T-100, stood a good chance of success if offered in alliance with one of the leading US defence operators. That program, which some analysts regard as a must-win contract for trainer manufacturers, could involve up to 1,000 aircraft, including naval and light attack versions, and the T-X will become the most suitable trainer for air forces fielding Lockheed Martin F-35s, so potential for international sales is also vast.

General Dynamics and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi signed a letter of intent to jointly offer a pilot training system built around Alenia Aermacchi’s M-346 advanced jet trainer for the T-X program. BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, which offered the Hawk AJT (advanced jet trainer), was the only other industrial team on the card.

By September 2015 Textron AirLand’s Scorpion in its current form had been ruled out as a competitor for the US Air Force’s T-X next-generation trainer program to replace the Northrop T-38, according to the joint venture’s president Bill Anderson. Writing in Flight Globa, James Drew reported that “From the engineering analysis we have done, this looks like a very complex, high-performance aircraft that in our estimation is going to be pretty expensive,” says Anderson. “Scorpion as-is is not a competitor for T-X.”

In late January 2017 the Raytheon-Leonardo team dropped out of the running. At the same time, Northrop Grumman CEO Wes Bush said his company was still deciding whether or not it would bid (partnered with BAE Systems and L-3). The other three in the running were Boeing and Saab with a clean-sheet design, Sierra Nevada and Turkish Aerospace Industries with a clean-sheet design and Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries with the T-50A. Observers did not expect Textron to offer the Scorpion jet absent a reduction in the Air Force's stringent T-X performance requirements. Under the USAF RFP all of the program elements would be done as fixed-price (some incentive fee and some firm fixed). This would disadvantage to bidders who offered clean-sheet designs, which Boeing, Northrop Grumman and Sierra Nevada have said they intend to do. New aircraft would include a design cost (or the bidders would have to pay for it themselves) and the production cost would be estimated and not based on actual experience (leading to some risk on the fixed-price production cost).

James Drew wrote in Aerospace Daily & Defense Report 27 January 2017 that "The U.S. Air Force’s once-crowded $16 billion T-X next-generation trainer competition is beginning to look more and more like a price shootout between the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries T-50A and Boeing/Saab BTX after Northrop Grumman expressed mixed feelings... "

The following is a statement by Northrop Grumman Corporation Feb. 1, 2017: "Northrop Grumman and its principal teammate BAE Systems have carefully examined the U.S. Air Force’s T-X Trainer requirements and acquisition strategy as stated in the final request for proposals issued on Dec. 30, 2016. The companies have decided not to submit a proposal for the T-X Trainer program, as it would not be in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders. Northrop Grumman and BAE Systems remain fully committed to performing on current and future U.S. Air Force programs, to deliver critical capabilities to America’s airmen."

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Page last modified: 02-02-2017 19:37:08 ZULU