Northrop Grumman has reportedly designed a new aircraft for the US Air Force’s (USAF) T-X trainer replacement programme.
The company had initially planned to offer BAE System’s Hawk advanced trainer aircraft for the multi-billion dollar T-X contract that covers production of 350 new two-seat jet trainers for replacement of the USAF’s ageing T-38 Talon fleet.
Northrop Grumman T-X programme director Marc Lindsley was quoted by DefenseNews as saying that the decision to switch from a proven system to a new design was taken two years ago, after USAF made the T-X more requirements more clear to industry.
Lindsley said: "[After] the open dialogue with industry, the understanding [of what] the requirements and capabilities are, and what the costs are of those requirements, we have an opportunity with this clean-sheet design to give them exactly what they want, and that’s what we want to do."
The company also informed the USAF of its plan ‘a few’ months ago, but refused to share details about the new design.
The latest design is currently at the assembly stage and is expected to conduct first flight sometime this year.
Meanwhile, Northrop is believed to be in talks with BAE to use its core training system as the centre of the new aircraft’s internal systems. It has also partnered with KUKA Systems.
BAE will support production and design of the aircraft, which is reportedly being designed at Scaled Composites’ facility in Mojave, California, US. Meabwhile, L-3 Communications will provide ground training systems, such as simulators and classroom activities.
A Scaled Composites spokesman said the decision regarding the site for T-X production is yet to be made, but noted that the aircraft would most likely be built at one of Northrop’s Manufacturing Centres of Excellence, in Florida, or in Palmdale, US.
According to the publication, the Boeing and Saab team was the only one expected to submit clean-sheet design for T-X competition until the decision by Northrop.
Apart from Northrop and Boeing, Lockheed Martin, Textron AirLand, General Dynamics and the Finmeccanica team, intend to submit bids for the T-X contract.
Image: The T-X contract covers production of 350 new two-seat jet trainers for replacement of USAF’s ageing T-38 Talon fleet. Photo: courtesy of SGT Jeffrey Allen, USAF.