Raytheon Names U.S. Site for Assembling T-100 Trainers

 - October 24, 2016, 4:10 PM
The T-100 variant of the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master is shown on a training flight. (Photo: Raytheon)

Raytheon will assemble the T-100 jet trainer in Meridian, Miss., if the U.S. Air Force chooses the aircraft for its T-X jet trainer replacement program, the manufacturer announced on October 24. The T-100 is a variant of the twin-engine Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master fighter trainer ordered by Italy, Singapore, Israel and Poland.

In February, Raytheon announced a partnership with Italy’s Leonardo-Finmeccanica group to offer the trainer for the 350-aircraft T-X requirement along with engine manufacturer Honeywell and training system provider CAE. Leonardo had previously signed a letter of intent with General Dynamics to offer the T-100.

Days before Raytheon identified a U.S. assembly location, Defense News, quoting unnamed sources, said the partnership nearly unraveled over levels of work share, differing business and defense acquisition cultures and potential T-100 exports.

Raytheon said it has manufactured products in Mississippi for more than three decades; it currently builds active electronically scanned array radars at a facility in Forest, Miss. In a statement accompanying the announcement, Mississippi Gov. Phil Bryant (R) said the T-X program would create hundreds of new jobs.

“Our process determined that the best location for building the T-100 is Meridian,” said Rick Yuse, Raytheon Space and Airborne Systems president. “It provides the right blend of infrastructure, proximity to our customers, government support and a talent base that’s ready for the high-tech jobs critical to our success.”

The Raytheon-led partnership faces competition from Lockheed Martin, which would assemble the T-50A variant of the Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle in Greenville, S.C.; and teams led by Boeing and Northrop Grumman, each advancing clean-sheet designs. In September, Boeing rolled out the first of two BTX prototypes it is building at its military aircraft headquarters facility in St. Louis. Northrop Grumman’s jet, which is being built by the company’s Scaled Composites subsidiary in Mojave, Calif., in mid-August was photographed conducting high-speed taxi tests before a first flight.

The U.S. Air Force has said it expects to release 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.