L-3 Link Simulation & Training has signed an agreement with BAE Systems to jointly compete for the US Air Force (USAF) T-X programme, aimed at replacing the ageing Northrop T-38C Talon fleet.

BAE has offered its Hawk Advanced Jet Training System (AJTS), which will be uniquely tailored to meet the needs of the USAF, for the contract expected to be awarded this year. Under the agreement, BAE will be the prime contractor for the programme, while L-3 Link will lead the design and integration of the Hawk AJTS Ground-Based Training System (GBTS).

L-3 Link president Leonard Genna said the team will deliver a next-generation GBTS to help the USAF reduce costs and create training efficiencies by upgrading key training tasks from the aircraft to advanced simulation and training systems. BAE also formed a strategic partnership with Northrop Grumman for the T-X programme in September 2011; the company will serve as the new Hawk manufacturing partner.

Other potential contenders include Alenia Aermacchi with its M-346 Master, and the T-50 Golden Eagle by the Lockheed Martin/Korea Aerospace Industries team.

The Hawk AJTS integrates live and synthetic air and ground-based elements to train pilots for fifth-generation fighters including the F-35 Lightning II and the F-22 Raptor in order to address the critical flow of information and make decisions for operational advantage. The Hawk features a flexible Enterprise Learning Architecture (ELA) and a GBTS to provide cost-effective training for pilots.

The aircraft will also serve as the future lead-in trainer for the F-35 aircraft for the US Navy and US Marine Corps (USMC) as well as in the UK, Canada and Australia.

Around 1,000 Hawks are currently used worldwide to train pilots in several newest-generation aircraft including the Eurofighter Typhoon, F-35 Lightning II and Saab Gripen.