UPDATED 24 February | US defense company Rayhteon and Finmeccanica have formally joined the T-X race to develop and deliver a new jet trainer aircraft for the US Air Force, Raytheon officialy announced on Monday 22 February. Their proposal will be based on the M-346 Master currently in service in Italy, Singapore and Israel.
Update | A fresh report by defensenews.com indicates Textron AirLand will not bid in the T-X program.
Raytheon and Finmeccanica will further develop the FNM Aeronautics (formerly Alenia Aermacchi) M-346 into the T-100 jet trainer that prepares future pilots for high performance military jets such as the F-35 Lightning II. It’s cockpit is expected to share many commonalities with the F-35, such as a large MFD. Honeywell Aerospace supplies F124 turbofan engines to power the T-100.
In the T-X program, the US looks for at least 350 of such aircraft to replace the current fleet of T-38 Talon jets, a type that has trained military pilots for decades and has seen several upgrades but now nears the end of its life.
The M-346 is used as a Lead-in Fighter Trainer (LIFT). The jet is capable of advanced training by using tactical simulation as well as datalink equipment. It can provide its pilots with a real time radar image provided by ground based or airborne radar systems, and it can replicate and attack threats on the ground and in the air. More on that is here at Airheadsfly.com. Poland should receive its first of eight M-346s soon and a ground attack version is being developed.
The Raytheon announcement was long awaited and comes days after Lockheed Martin’s statement that it also joins the T-X race together with Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI). In Italy, FNM Aeronautics has been hinting at cooperation with a new US partner for many months, especially after General Dynamics quit an existing cooperation in March 2015. The Italians need a US partner to have any chance at winning the bid.
Also in the race jointly are Saab and Boeing, who aim to design a new aircraft altogether. Lockheed Martin has backed away from designing from scratch and now bets on a version of the KAI designed T-50. Furthermore, Textron AirLand will probably propose its Scorpion jet or a newly developed variant.
The Pentagon is expected to announce a winner in the T-X program in 2017. A contract is worth roughly 8.4 billion USD. The T-X program is regarded as the last in a recent series of big US airborne defense contract. The Long Range Strike Bomber (LRS-B) program was another. Norhrop Grumman was selected as the winner in that race in October 2015.
© 2016 Airheadsfly.com editor Elmer van Hest
— Finmeccanica (EN) (@finmeccanicaweb) 22 februari 2016