Boeing-Saab Team Wins U.S. Air Force’s $9.2 Billion T-X Advanced Pilot Trainer Contract

Boeing-Saab team has won the U.S. Air Force’s $9.2 billion T-X Advanced Pilot Trainer contract to supply an advanced trainer aircraft to replace the service’s fleet of aging Northrop T-38 Talon aircraft.

The indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity (IDIQ) contract allows the Air Force to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators. The Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators, and associated ground equipment to replace the Air Education and Training Command’s 57-year-old fleet of T-38C Talons.

An initial delivery order for $813 million provides for the engineering and manufacturing development of the first five aircraft and seven simulators.

“This new aircraft will provide the advanced training capabilities we need to increase the lethality and effectiveness of future Air Force pilots,” Secretary of the Air Force Heather A. Wilson said. “Through competition we will save at least $10 billion on the T-X program.”

The original service cost estimate was $19.7 billion for 351 aircraft.

The T-X program is expected to provide student pilots in undergraduate- and graduate-level training courses with the skills and competencies required to transition to 4th- and 5th-generation fighter and bomber aircraft.

“This is all about joint warfighting excellence; we need the T-X to optimize training for pilots heading into our growing fleet of fifth-generation aircraft,” said Air Force Chief of Staff Gen. David L. Goldfein. “This aircraft will enable pilot training in a system similar to our fielded fighters, ultimately enhancing joint lethality.”

The first T-X aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38 to the T-X. Those bases include: Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB, Texas; Sheppard AFB, Texas and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

The contract supports the Air Force’s objective of an initial operational capability by 2024 and full operational capability by 2034.

According to Boeing, its T-X advanced trainer can provide a new highly capable training solution for the USAF. The company earlier said that the aircraft would be produced at Boeing’s St. Louis plant through 2034.

Boeing is the designated prime contractor for the Advanced Pilot Training Program while Saab is a risk-sharing partner with Boeing in the development of the T-X aircraft. Saab and Boeing designed, developed, and flight-tested two all-new, purpose-built jets – proving out the system’s design and repeatability in manufacturing and training capability.

The T-X program requirements were released by the Air Force on March 20, 2015, and a a formal request for proposal (RFP) was issued on Dec. 30, 2016.The RFP includes 350 aircraft and initial operational capability (IOC) by 2024. Further purchases could push the total number of aircraft in USAF service to over 1,000.

The other major  competitors for the contract were Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A. with the M-346-based T-100 and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI)/Lockheed Martin with the T-50 Golden Eagle.

This is the third major contract won by Boeing past month.

In August, the company received an $805 million contract to build four MQ-25 Stingray unmanned aerial refueling aircraft for the U.S. Navy. The aircraft will become the Navy’s first operational carrier-based unmanned aircraft.

The company also won a $2.4 billion UH-1N Replacement Program contract. The contract will see Boeing supplying 84 MH-139 (variant of Leonardo-AgustaWestland AW139) helicopters and related support to the U.S. Air Force to replace the more than 40-year-old UH-1N Twin Huey helicopters used to protect America’s intercontinental ballistic missile (ICBM) bases.

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