U.S. Air Force Planning to Lease T-50A Jet Trainers

The U.S. Air Force is planning to lease a small number of South Korean KAI T-50A Golden Eagle advanced jet trainers, Korea Herald reported citing the aircraft’s manufacturer Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI).

According to the report, the USAF’s Air Combat Command (ACC) is planning to contract Texas-based Hillwood Aviation, a Perot Group company, to provide four to eight of T-50A aircraft train its aviators before they begin their formal training with the Boeing T-7A Red Hawk. The report cited a notice posted online by the U.S. General Services Administration (GSA) in January.

In 2018, the Boeing-Saab team was selected for the 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-38C Talon aircraft.

The Boeing-Saab’s T-X proposal was a clean-sheet design. The other competitors for the contract were KAI/Lockheed Martin with the T-50 Golden Eagle and Italy’s Leonardo S.p.A. with the M-346-based T-100. Both these designs were already in service.

“Though KAI lost the competition in 2018 to a consortium comprising Boeing and Saab, the lease of four to eight T-50A trainer jets is being reviewed as they are already operational and being exported,” a KAI official was quoted as saying. “When Hillwood Aviation purchases T-50A trainer jets, they will be leased to the US Air Force. The pricing for each jet is under negotiation.”

The T-50s trainer jets would be used to support trials before the first T-7As enter service. The jets will provide approximately 3,000 sorties (4,500 flight hours) annually for four years and 364 days, according to the Air Combat Command.

The $9.2 billion contract awarded to Boeing calls for 351 T-7A aircraft, 46 simulators and associated ground equipment to be delivered and installed. The first T-7A aircraft and simulators are scheduled to arrive at Joint Base San Antonio (JBSA)-Randolph, Texas, in 2023. All undergraduate pilot training bases will eventually transition from the T-38C to the T-7A. Those bases include Columbus Air Force Base, Mississippi; Laughlin AFB and Sheppard AFB, Texas; and Vance AFB, Oklahoma.

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