T-X Trainer Program Under Way as U.S. Air Force Releases RFP

 - January 3, 2017, 2:28 PM

The U.S. Air Force on December 30 released a formal request for proposals (RFP) for the T-X advanced pilot training program to replace its aging Northrop T-38 Talon jet trainers. The service expects to award a contract this year for the $16.3 billion acquisition of a new jet and ground-based training system.

The RFP covers all aspects of the system, including engineering and manufacturing development (EMD), low-rate initial production (LRIP), full-rate production and “sustainment transition” support, the Air Force said in a statement provided to AIN. The EMD phase calls for five test aircraft, with contract options for LRIP lots 1 and 2 and full-rate production lots three through 11, for a total of 350 aircraft. Provisions are included for ground training, mission planning and processing systems along with support equipment and spares.

When selected, the new jet will serve as a lead-in trainer for fourth- and fifth-generation fighters. The Air Force expects to declare initial operational capability of the trainer by the fourth quarter of Fiscal Year 2024 or earlier.

“Our ability to get the most out of our fifth-generation aircraft depends on success in the Advanced Pilot Training program,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. Dave Goldfein. “In terms of both providing realistic, holistic training and reducing flying hours on our fifth-generation platforms, T-X is a program we’ve got to get right.”

Four industry teams have declared plans to compete for the requirement: Raytheon and Leonardo-Finmeccanica, with the T-100 variant of the twin-engine Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master; Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries with the T-50A variant of the single-engine T-50 Golden Eagle; Northrop Grumman, with a single-engine clean-sheet design; and Boeing and Saab, also with a single-engine clean-sheet design.