Boeing, Saab Team for U.S. Air Force T-X Requirement

 - December 13, 2013, 12:15 PM
Saab president and CEO Håkan Buskhe, left, and Boeing Military Aircraft president Chris Chadwick sign joint development agreement on December 5 in St. Louis. (Photo: Boeing)

Boeing and Saab signed a joint development agreement for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X jet trainer requirement. They join three other industry teams offering aircraft for the T-X competition, which is expected to begin with a request for proposals (RFP) in 2016.

The Boeing-Saab teaming announcement on December 6 described “a completely new aircraft design,” but provides no other information. In response to a query from AIN, Boeing said the design is not based on Saab’s JAS 39 Gripen multi-role fighter. “We look forward to unveiling the design at the appropriate time,” the company added.

Håkan Buskhe, Saab president and CEO, and Boeing Military Aircraft president Chris Chadwick signed the agreement at Boeing Defense headquarters in St. Louis on December 5. Boeing is the prime contractor, with Saab as “primary partner” under the agreement, which covers design, development, production, support, sales and marketing.

The T-X requirement calls for some 350 jets to replace the Air Force’s aging Northrop T-38C Talons, which are used as advanced jet trainers for fighter pilots. In testimony before the Senate Armed Services Committee last May, Air Force leaders said the T-X is among modernization priorities that remain unfunded because of “sequestration” budget reductions. The program schedule has slipped from the service’s originally planned initial operational capability (IOC) date of Fiscal Year 2017 to 2020 in the last fiscal-year budget. The Air Force now estimates IOC around 2023.

Boeing and Saab join three other industry teams vying for the program. Earlier this year, General Dynamics and Italy’s Alenia Aermacchi signed a letter of intent to jointly offer the T-100 variant of Alenia Aermacchi’s twin-engine M-346 trainer. In September 2011, BAE Systems and Northrop Grumman announced a partnership to offer BAE’s Hawk Advanced Jet Trainer System (AJTS) based on the Hawk TMk2 flown by the UK Royal Air Force. Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries are expected to offer the T-50 Golden Eagle based on the supersonic fighter trainer now in service with the Republic of Korea Air Force.

Saab is consolidating its defense business in the U.S. In October the Swedish company announced the establishment of Saab Defense and Security USA, combining the operations of Saab Training USA, Saab Barracuda, Saab Support and Services and the defense elements of Saab Sensis into a single organizational structure.