In a surprise move, Italian aircraft manufacturer Leonardo on Wednesday announced it is re-entering the US Air Force T-X competition with its T-100 design. Earlier, Leonardo dropped out together with US partner company Raytheon after being ‘unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the US Air Force’. Now, the Italians put forward their US company, Leonardo DRS, as the prime contractor.
According to Leonardo, the T-100 will be a US-based program that brings the US economic benefits through a newly established and skilled US work force, in addition to technological and industrial capabilities embedded in newly built US-based manufacturing facilities.
“Leonardo’s commitment to pursue the T-X builds on our deep experience in military pilots’ training and on the competitiveness of our T-100 integrated Training Systems that can meet the US Air Force’s current and future needs” said Leonardo CEO Mauro Moretti.
The Italians emphasize the T-100’s use of two US-produced Honeywell F124 turbofan engines in an attempt to show that US companies will benefit if the T-100 takes the prize. The T-X program also sees Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in competion with their T-50, plus Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet. Both use General Electic;s F-404 turbofan.
The T-100 is based on the M-346 Master jet trainer that is used by four countries to prepare pilots in next-generation fighter aircraft. Leonardo never forget to point out that the M-346 was selected by the Israeli Air Force as their next training option. The T-100 will feature the same embedded tactical training system used by the M-346. It puts student pilots in realistic but simulated mission scenarios.
Belgium is looking to move its fast jet pilot training from France to the US, according to a statement by the chief of the Belgian Air Component. Current training takes place on the Alpha Jet in France, but since that country is replacing the Alpha Jet with the Pilatus PC-21, Belgium is looking at other options.
Starting 2019, Belgian future jet pilots will head to ENJJPT (Euro-NATO Joint Jet Pilot Training) at Sheppard Air Force Base in Texas for advanced training. The move is said to be a temporary measure, since requirements may change as a result of the Belgian quest to replace the current F-16 with 34 new fighter jets. In competition are the Dassault Rafale, Saab Gripen, Boeing F/A-18 Super Hornet, Eurofighter Typhoon and Lockheed Martin F-35.
With France exchanging the Alpha Jet for a new training platform, the days are numbered for the Alpha Jet in Belgian service too. A total of 33 jets have been in service since the late seventies.
According to the statement, ‘Northrop Grumman and its principal teammate BAE Systems have carefully examined the U.S. Air Force’s T-X Trainer requirements and acquisition strategy as stated in the final request for proposals. The companies have decided not to submit a proposal for the T-X Trainer program, as it would not be in the best interest of the companies and their shareholders.’
The announcement was expected for quite a few days already, as Northrop Grumman earlier hinted at not entering the competition.
This leaves on Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) in competion with their T-50, plus Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet. A decision on the winner is to be announced some time in the next few years.
The T-X program is aimed at replacing many dozens of ageing US Air Force T-38 Talon trainer aircraft. Northrop Grumman’s T-X model was first sighted at Mojave airport in California in August 2016. It performed its first flight on 24 August 2016.
Raytheon and Leonardo on Wednesday 25 January announced they will not jointly compete in the US Air Force Advanced Pilot Training program, known as the T-X program. Their joint entry, the T-100 Integrated Air Training System, will therefore not enter in a competition to replace hundreds of US Air Force T-38 Talons.
“In February 2016, Raytheon and Leonardo announced their intent to team on the T-X pursuit. While we remain confident that the T-100 is a strong solution, our companies were unable to reach a business agreement that is in the best interest of the US Air Force,” said a statement released by Raytheon. “Consequently, Raytheon and Leonardo will not jointly pursue the T-X competition.”
Leonardo states it is ‘evaluating how to leverage on the strong capabilities and potential of the T-100, in the best interest of the US Air Force’. The Italian manufacturer and Raytheon formally announced their intention to compete in the T-X program in February 2016, after Leonardo earlier tried to partner up with General Dynamics.
Their T-100 design was to be developed jointly and to be built in Meridian, Mississippi. The new type was to be based on the existing and highly capable Leonardo M-346 Master trainer aircraft. The chances of Leonardo entering the T-X competition with the M-346 or T-100 on its own, seem remote given US president Trumps’s desire for ‘buy American, hire American’.
Still in competition in the T-X program are Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) with the T-50, Boeing and Saab with a newly designed jet, plus Northrop Grumman with another new design. A decision on the winner is to be announced some time in the next few years.