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.
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.
Italy has signed a deal with Italian company Leonardo for the delivery of an initial five M-345 HET (High Efficiency Trainer) aircraft to the Italian Air Force, Leonardo reported on Friday 13 January. Also, a contract was signed for the development of a new light attack and recce helicopter for the Italian Army, replacing the Mangusta. The combined value of the contracts totals over 500 million EUR.
The M-345 HET first flew only on 29 December last year. Leonardo reports that the Italian Air Force has a requirement for around 45 M-345s to replace MB-339 trainers which entered service in 1982. Most noticable, the M-345 HET is to equip Italy’s aerial demonstration team Frecce Tricolori, which now also uses the MB-339. First M-345 delivery is expected by 2019.
In its training role, the new aircraft will work alongside a fleet of 18 twin-engine Aermacchi M-346s ordered by the Italian Air Force for advanced pilot training. Leonardo puts the M-345 and M-346 on the market as ‘the world’s most advanced training system for military pilots’. Airheadsfly.com flew the M-346 last October and was impressed.
The helicopter contract involves the study, development, industrialization, production and testing of a prototype and three initial production helicopters for the Italian Army. The program is aimed at replacing the current fleet of AW129 Mangusta light attack choppers with 48 new assets By that time, the Mangusta will have been in service for over 35 years in operations.
So that’s 2016 almost over and done with. This past year saw military aviation headlines wizz by in a record and sometimes worrying tempo. Donald Trump’s pending presidency along with Putin’s neverending desire to show Russia’s potential will decide the pace for 2017. But for now, let’s look back at a year that wothout a doubt had it’s moments here at Airheadsfly.com. And for all readers: thanks for doing so and a happy new year to you all!
The Royal International Air Tattoo at RAF Fairford saw the F-35 for the first time. But this supposed star of the show was outstaged by the fabulous F-22 Raptor. Seeing is believing.
Early in the year, we flew the Airbus Helicopters UH-72A Lakota helicopter, courtesy of the US Army in Germany. They come in green but also in this wild combination of colours, which stands out against the German countryside…. like a bruised banana. Because that’s what these machines are nicknamed.
A Lightning in blue skies. Early June, we boarded a Royal netherlands Air Force KDC-10 tanker aircraft for a sortie alongside the F-35A Lightning II over the North Sea. It’s in the air where the beast becomes a beauty.
A beast, that is also what this Eurofighter Typhoon was at Fairford in July. Fully tooled up and piloted by BAE Systems test pilot Nat Makepeace, this jet gave all other Typhoon diplays at the same airshow – and there were plenty- a run for their money.
Airheadsfly.com was also on scene on when both Royal Netherlands Air Force (RNLAF) touched Dutch soil for the first time on 23 May 2016. The weather did not cooperate in any way, but as both jets came to rest and festivities ended, all was well. “An awesome experience”, recounted one of the pilots.
Between 21 February and 4 March, Portugal was the stage of annual exervise Real Thaw. Our contributor Jorge Ruivo was there to provide you with some much needed burner action. These burners belong to a US Air Force F-15C Eagle.
So yeah, of course our flight in the Leonardo Aircraft M-346 Master has to be in this. With hundreds of pictures taken, it’s a pity that we can show only a small selection. Here’s one of formation leader Cobra 1 over a fine turqoise Italian coastline.
Turkey made a lot of news headlines this year. And ok, technically it may have been 2015 when Dirk Jan de Ridder took this shot of two Turkish Air Force T-38 Talons. But we sure were glad to bring it to you in 2016 as part of a feature story on pilot training in Turkey. And given the fact that a lot of Turkish fast jet pilots were fired from duty after the failed coup, there’s a lot of training of new pilots to do.
The F-35 program celebrated major steps in 2016, such as the Initial Operation Capability within the US Air Force, but also the delivery of more aircraft than even before, including new jets for Israel and Japan.
There were setback also: insulation problems kept many jets grounded for weeks, while Canada opted not to buy the F-35 for now. Last but not least, president-to-be Donald Trump started taking swings at the program’s costs. And yes, development of this jet is expensive and still has some way to go – but it will get there and it will be impressive. And perhaps prove necessary.