First T-50A Jet Trainer Makes Maiden Flight

 - June 2, 2016, 2:29 PM
The first T-50A jet trainer completed its maiden flight from Sacheon, South Korea. (Photo: Lockheed Martin)

The T-50A, Lockheed Martin’s entry for the U.S. Air Force’s T-X advanced jet trainer competition, completed its first flight test on June 2, the manufacturer said. The single-engine jet flew from Sacheon, South Korea, the site of development partner Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

In February, Lockheed Martin announced that it will offer a new variant of KAI’s T-50 Golden Eagle for the USAF requirement for up to 350 training jets to replace the current Northrop T-38 Talon. It had earlier considered offering a clean-sheet design.

Unlike previous versions of the T-50, which KAI produces for the Republic of Korea Air Force, the T-50A has an in-flight refueling receptacle and an advanced cockpit with a single, large-screen display. The jet is intended to serve as a lead-in trainer for fifth-generation F-22 and F-35 fighters.

“The aircraft in its new configuration with the fifth gen cockpit and other upgrades performed flawlessly,” stated Mark Ward, Lockheed Martin T-50A lead test pilot. “I have no doubt this aircraft will close the gap which currently exists between the trainer fleet and fifth generation fighters.”

Should Lockheed Martin prevail in the competition, it would assemble T-50As at a facility in Greenville, S.C., which it is “currently standing up.” It faces rival proposals from the partnership of Boeing and Saab and another team led by Northrop Grumman, which have said they will offer clean-sheet designs. Raytheon and Finmeccanica will offer a variant of the twin-engine Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master for the requirement.

The USAF has said it expects to issue a request for proposals for the T-X program in December. The planned initial operational capability milestone of the new jet trainer is Fiscal Year 2024.