AFA 2015: USAF prepares to unveil T-X requirements

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Marina Malenic, Orlando - IHS Jane's Defence Weekly
12 February 2015



The USAF will soon release requirements for the hotly contested effort to replace the legacy Northrop Grumman (Northrop) T-38 Talon (pictured). Source: IHS/Patrick Allen
Key Points
  • The USAF is preparing to release requirements for its Northrop T-38C Talon combat aircraft trainer replacement programme
  • Although the service's FY 2016 budget request includes funding for the T-X as an aggressor training system, officials insist that the USAF intends the system only as an advanced pilot training system
The US Air Force (USAF) is poised to release requirements for its Northrop T-38C Talon combat aircraft trainer replacement programme, known as T-X, within weeks, the service's top training official said during a 12 February press roundtable at the Air Force Association's Air Warfare Symposium.

"We're pretty close to having it done," said Gen Robin Rand, head of the USAF's Air Education and Training Command.

He added that the requirements have been reviewed by the USAF's Requirements Oversight Council and that the service's top civilian official must now authorise their release. "We're not talking years, we're not talking months," he said. "Hopefully we're talking weeks."

Although the Pentagon's Fiscal Year 2016 (FY 2016) budget request includes funding for the T-X as an aggressor training system, the general denied that the USAF intended the system as anything but an advanced pilot training system.

"We're working hard to make sure we stay to the requirements for advanced pilot training," he said. "There is no decision that's been made yet to use the T-X in any other capacity."

According to the USAF's Fiscal Year 2016 (FY2016) budget request, a request for proposals (RfP) is to be released in the fourth quarter of FY2016. A contract is to be awarded about a year later. The FY2016 budget contains a request for USD11.4 million for T-X research and development (R&D). The funding request is planned to escalate over the Future Year Defense Program (FYDP) with USD12.2 million in FY2017, USD107.2 million in FY2018, USD262.8 million in FY2019, and USD275.9 million in FY2020. The service is likely to buy 300-400 of the aircraft to replace its ageing T-38s.

Without specifying the aggressor capability, Gen Rand did say that the requirements will allow for technology upgrades over time in order to keep the system current even as threats evolve.

"We don't want buyer's remorse," he said. "It's a 50-year-plus aircraft."

Gen Rand also acknowledged something that all of the industry teams have been hinting at-the importance of simulators to the new T-X programme. "Simulation will be a big part of this programme," he said. "One without the other will not be good."

Northrop Grumman recently announced that it is developing a new aircraft design for the programme due to what it saw as an evolution in the USAF's requirements. A Boeing-Saab team is also planning to offer a fresh design for the T-X. Other announced competitors include Textron AirLand, which is planning to enter with a variant of its new Scorpion jet; Lockheed Martin's and Korean Aerospace Industries (KAI) with KAI's T-50; and General Dynamics and Alenia Aermacchi with the T-100, based on Alenia's M-346 Master.
AFA 2015: USAF prepares to unveil T-X requirements - IHS Jane's 360
 
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