US Air Force awards $9B contract to Boeing –Saab for T-X Next Gen Pilot Training Jet
Shailesh Kumar, National Defence
New Delhi, 28 September 2018
A Boeing-Saab partnership has won a 9.2 billion dollar contract to produce the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation pilot training jet. US Air Force has selected T-X training jet to replace around 350 Northrop T-38 Talon aircraft currently in serice. T-X is world’s Most Advanced Integrated Pilot Training System that is made in America.
According to Boeing company, the US Air Force plans to purchase 351 jets, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment.
The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract will allow the Air Force to buy up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators.
This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities US Air Force needs to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots.
“Today’s announcement is the culmination of years of unwavering focus by the Boeing and Saab team,” said Leanne Caret, president and CEO, Boeing Defense, Space & Security.
“It is a direct result of our joint investment in developing a system centered on the unique requirements of the U.S. Air Force. We expect T-X to be a franchise program for much of this century.”
Boeing and Saab’s trainer, designed specifically for the Air Force, beat out Leonardo DRS T-100 and a Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 Golden Eagle partnership. However, throughout the competition, the Boeing-Saab jet was seen as the front-runner.
DRS’ T-100 is based on the Leonardo M-346 trainer, which is being sold to two F-35 users — Italy and Israel — as well as Singapore. Leonardo initially looked to partner with a big-name U.S. defense prime, first joining with General Dynamics and then, when that teaming agreement fell apart, Raytheon.
Ultimately, Leonardo and Raytheon couldn’t agree on pricing for the T-100, leading that partnership to also break up in January 2017.
The T-X program is the Air Force’s last major aircraft procurement opportunity up for grabs for some time, as the service’s contracts for its next-generation fighter, tanker and bomber have already been awarded, as have the last remaining new-start helicopter contracts.
Under the initial 813 million dollar award, Boeing will be responsible for delivering five T-X aircraft and seven simulators, with the first simulators arriving at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023.
According to the T-X request for proposals issued in December 2016, the Air Force will then execute contract options for two batches of low-rate production and eight rounds of full-rate production. The contract also includes ground training systems, mission planning and processing systems, support equipment, and spares. Interestingly, the aircraft T-X was first flown as recently as on 20th December 2016.
“This selection allows our two companies to deliver on a commitment we jointly made nearly five years ago,” says Håkan Buskhe, President and CEO of Saab.
“It is a major accomplishment for our partnership with Boeing and our joint team, and I look forward to delivering the first trainer aircraft to the U.S. Air Force.”
The fighter-like trainer aircraft, which was designed for ease of maintenance, is the cornerstone of an all-new pilot training system that also includes classroom training and simulators. It will help train future fighter and bomber pilots for generations to come.
Initial operating capability is planned by the end of fiscal 2024 when the first squadron and its associated simulators are all available for training. Full operational capability is projected for 2034.
Boeing had partnered with Saab, which is building the aircraft’s fuselage and other systems.
The team produced two single-engine, twin-tailed prototypes, which were unveiled at Boeing’s St. Louis, Missouri, facility in 2016. Saab promised that, should the partnership emerge victorious, it would build a new plant in the United States for its T-X work.
Winning of US$9.2b contract also raises the prospects of Swedish major Saab also raises it’s prospects in India as it is also in race for MMRCA 2.0.
Many critics say that Saab’s Gripen fighter jet’s engines are build in America and America may not transfer the technology to India in case Saab emerges as the winner in MMRCA 2.0
Shailesh Kumar is an independent journalist with over 15 years of experience in crime, political and defence reporting for leading media brands including Star News, India TV and NewsX. He is the founder editor of defence and security news portal, National Defence.