Lockheed Martin’s T-50A would be the best bet for the Air Force’s T-X trainer because it not only meets all the service’s performance requirements, but also it would draw on the company’s incumbent knowledge of the F-16, F-22, and F-35: most of the jets the T-X will train pilots to fly, said Lockheed’s T-X capture chief, Mike Griswold. Lockheed could adapt its F-35 Ground Based Training System to the T-X, reusing hardware and software and making the transition easier from one to the other, he said. The T-50A cockpit, using flight controls and displays highly similar to that of the F-35, would also ease the transition, he said. The T-50A could also perform some F-35 training at lower cost, Griswold noted, because of embedded training software that would simulate sensors and weapons. The T-50A, with a new refueling receptacle behind the cockpit – as it is on the F-16, F-22, and F-35 – could also give F-35 pilots their first real-world tanker contacts with an experienced instructor in the back seat; something that can’t be done with the F-35, of which there are no two-seat models. The T-50 trainer has racked up 100,000 flight hours in Korean service and has trained more than 1,000 pilots, company officials noted.
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.