General Dynamics, Alenia Aermacchi Pursue T-X Trainer Program

 - January 18, 2013, 12:20 PM
General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi will offer the T-100 variant of the M-346 jet trainer for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X trainer replacement program. (Photo: Alenia Aermacchi)

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 U.S. Air Force’s T-X jet trainer replacement program. The partnership is the second industrial team to announce its pursuit of the T-X program after the team of BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman, which is offering the Hawk AJT (advanced jet trainer).

General Dynamics C4 Systems, based in Scottsdale, Ariz., would be the prime contractor for an integrated training program featuring Alenia Aermacchi’s twin-engine jet, designated T-100 for the U.S. requirement. The company would supply a system consisting of the aircraft, flight simulation devices, multi-media classes and logistics support. The T-X requirement is for 350 to 500 jets to replace the Air Force’s Northrop T-38C Talons, which are used as advanced jet trainers for fighter pilots.

Alenia Aermacchi is in the process of surveying potential sites for what would be a final assembly operation for the T-100 in the U.S., General Dynamics executives told AIN. “This will be a ‘made in the USA’ aircraft,” said Chris Marzilli, president of C4 Systems. “A lot of the supply chain is already sourced in the U.S., and there will be arrangements to assemble it stateside, fairly quickly into the build quantity.”

The Air Force will conduct a T-X industry day later this month at Wright-Patterson AFB in Ohio. Executives said they hope to learn more about the program status there, including the timing of a draft request for proposals. “They have advertised 2020 as an IOC [initial operational capability], so you would expect we’d have to get to draft material later this year,” said Mike DiBiase, General Dynamics T-X program vice president. He said there is research, development test and evaluation funding for the T-X in Fiscal Years 2013 to 2015, with increased funding thereafter. “It’s a low-level effort in the next two to three fiscal years and then it gets significant funding really quickly,” he said.

The air forces of Italy, Singapore and Israel have ordered the M-346. ST Aerospace serves as the prime contractor on the industrial team providing 12 jet trainers to the Republic of Singapore Air Force, with Alenia Aermacchi supplying the aircraft and Boeing the training system. Marzilli said Alenia Aermacchi “sought out General Dynamics,” for the U.S. program. “They did their homework on what primes would be competitive and compelling, and we made the cut,” he said. “It was quite a natural marriage.” Boeing may still be considering whether to bid an all-new design for the T-X.

In September 2011, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman announced a partnership to offer BAE’s Hawk AJT for the T-X requirement. Their system is based on the Hawk TMk2 flown by the UK Royal Air Force. BAE later named L-3 Link Simulation & Training to supply the ground-based training system.