BAE Systems named Northrop Grumman its manufacturing partner to offer the Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer System (AJTS) for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X jet trainer requirement. Northrop Grumman built the T-38C Talon jets that the T-X will replace. Announcing the “exclusive strategic partnership” September 19 at the Air Force Association conference in National Harbor, Md., executives from the two companies said they are evaluating sites for a U.S. production facility.
Prime contractor BAE will offer an aircraft and training system based on the Hawk TMk2 flown by the UK Royal Air Force as a lead-in trainer for the Eurofighter Typhoon and eventually the F-35 Lightning II. The company has completed delivery of 28 aircraft ordered under a $710 million (£450 million) contract awarded in 2006. There is a Hawk line in India, building aircraft with assemblies from the UK, and other customers are still in prospect, according to Bob Wood, BAE’s T-X campaign executive.
The T-X requirement for 350 to 500 aircraft and ground-based training systems is expected to draw other competitors, including the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 ordered by Italy and Singapore; the T-50 Golden Eagle produced by Korean Aerospace Industries after design assistance from Lockheed Martin; and Boeing, which may bid a its own new design. The request for information issued by the Air Force Aeronautical Systems Center in 2009 seeks a “high-performance, two-seat military jet trainer aircraft and ground-based training system to include full-fidelity simulators, courseware and other virtual/computer-based training applications.” The T-X is intended to replace the F-16 as a lead-in trainer for the F-35, as well as the T-38 fleet, which dates from the 1960s and has seen a number of service life extensions. Initial operational capability would be in the fourth quarter of 2017.
The BAE Hawk first flew in 1974, but “there is nothing old” about the Hawk AJTS that will be offered to the U.S. Air Force, Wood said. “Other than the canopy, it is a new airplane,” he said. The industry team expects the Air Force will issue a formal request for proposals in 2012, but that could be influenced by the deep budget cuts facing the U.S. military. Asked about the potential impact of the cuts, Wood said, “there is an incredible F-35 training requirement coming. Eventually something needs to be done.”