Alenia Aermacchi is still in the race to provide the US Air Force with 350 new T-X advanced training jets to replace the aging Northrop T-38 Talons in American service. The bid by the Italian aircraft manufacturer got a serious blow when its planned primary partner, General Dynamics, dropped out of the race.
General Dynamics, the company that designed and made the famous F-16 multirole jet and sold its aircraft division to Lockheed (Martin) in 1993, said it needs time and energy to reorganise itself and that it therefore cannot continue to become lead contractor for Alenia Aermacchi’s planned Americanised version of the M-346 advanced training jet. But the Italians are keeping there hopes up to go ahead with what they have named the T-100 and have engaged business discussions with a yet to be named US company. Winning the partnership of a American based firm is essential to win the order.
L-3 Communications in Waco, Texas, is the most likely “discussion partner” for Alenia Aermacchi, as the US company has already joined forces on the Italian C-27J Spartan aircraft. But Northrop Grumman was also hoping for the support of L-3, which makes matters ratter complicated. But there might be an opening, as Northrop Grumman together with its main partner BAE Systems seems to have stepped away from the earlier plan to offer the US Air Force a “pimped” version of the Hawk advanced jet trainer – meaning L-3 could re-discuss its involvement.
Boeing / SAAB
Probably Alenia Aermacchi’s biggest competitor in the bidding race is the Boeing / SAAB partnership. The SAAB JAS 39 Gripen multirole fighter is already a perfect, but overqualified candidate to replace the T-38. SAAB already admitted it has “a few hundred people working on the project”, with employees working in St. Louis, Missouri, and Boeing personnel at work at SAAB headquarters in Linköping, Sweden.
SAAB’s joint effort with Boeing – which bought the impressive McDonnell Douglas fighter heritage – to modify and “down develop” the ideas behind the Gripen into an advanced jet trainer – could be lethal to the competition, also to third bidder Lockheed Martin working with Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) to adapt the Korean T-50 jet.
© 2015 Airheadsfly.com editor Marcel Burger
Featured image (top): The M-346 advanced trainer in mid-flight (Image © Alenia Aermacchi)