The final requirements for the Air Force’s T-X trainer call for a fleet of 350 aircraft and a training system, including simulators and courseware, that can be bought and operated for $1 billion a year for 20 years, in base-year 2014 dollars. A contract is to be let in late 2017. The requirements are being released about 10 months earlier than usual acquisition procedures, meant to generate “more deliberate and open engagement with industry,” said Brig. Gen. Dawn Dunlop, Air Education and Training Command director of programs and requirements. Initial draft requirements were released in 2012. The jets will replace about 420 T-38s, which are now more than 50 years old. According to AETC, the period of operation for T-X is 2026-2045, with first deliveries due in 2022. The aircraft are to fly 360 hours a year, at a mission readiness rate of 80 percent. AETC has not limited the competition to “off the shelf” aircraft, and contractors are free to submit clean-sheet designs. Boeing and Northrop Grumman each are designing new jets for the T-X competition, and Lockheed Martin has a new design ready in case its offering of the Korean T-50 trainer, which it helped develop, doesn’t meet the requirements.
The U.S. supports “a stronger and more capable” European defense, Defense Secretary Lloyd J. Austin III said during an Oct. 22 press conference in Brussels—but that defense should not duplicate the functions and capabilities of the NATO alliance.