Saab Names U.S. Site for T-X Production

 - May 8, 2019, 11:47 AM
The second of two Boeing/Saab T-X aircraft is seen during a test flight. Saab supplied aft fuselage assemblies for the jet trainer. (photo: Boeing)

Saab will establish a site at West Lafayette, Indiana, for the manufacture and assembly of components of the T-X jet trainer. The company co-developed the clean-sheet design with lead contractor Boeing, which will undertake final assembly in St. Louis, Missouri. The new Saab site is to be built in the Discovery Park District, which is affiliated with Purdue University. In September 2017, before the team's selection for the program, Saab made public its intention to locate its T-X production activities in the United States.

From 2020, Saab plans to invest around $37 million in the facility. Construction is scheduled to begin at that time, as will the hiring of local employees, with around 300 full-time jobs being created.

The announcement was made during a May 8 ceremony attended by Indiana State Governor Eric J. Holcomb, Purdue University president Mitch Daniels, and Saab’s president and CEO Håkan Buskhe. “This is a historic moment for Saab. After careful consideration, we have chosen West Lafayette, thanks to the visionary leadership of both the State of Indiana and the world-leading Purdue University,” remarked Buskhe. “Today’s announcement is a part of our growth strategy in the United States, and deepens our relationship with the U.S. customer. We see great possibilities here for this facility and our partnerships.”

As well as making and assembling T-X components, the new facility is expected to undertake research and development work. Saab has entered into a partnership with Purdue University and is expected to further its U.S.-based R&D efforts, notably in the fields of artificial intelligence, autonomous systems, and sensors.

The Boeing/Saab team was declared the winner of the $9.2 billion T-X competition in September 2018, having built two demonstrator aircraft, the first of which undertook its maiden flight on December 20, 2016. The U.S. Air Force has an initial requirement for 351 aircraft supported by 46 simulators, although those figures could rise to as many as 485 and 120, respectively.

Powered by a single afterburning General Electric F404 turbofan, the T-X will conduct advanced training as a replacement for the aging Northrop T-38 Talon, but could also be employed for aggressor training and light attack. The type is likely to prove attractive in the export market, and the Navy/Marine Corps could find an interest in a navalized version as a replacement for the Boeing T-45 Goshawk carrier trainer and Northrop F-5 adversary aircraft.