The Air Force is expected to go to the Defense Acquisition Board this summer with a plan to buy as many as 500 new advanced T-X trainer aircraft to replace the T-38, according to service and industry officials. The service would like the first batch of new trainers to go operational in late 2017. A recent analysis of alternatives suggested that an off-the-shelf trainer, rather than a clean-sheet design or yet another T-38 life extension, was the right way to go, said the officials. Michael Griswold, Lockheed Martin business development director for the Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries T-50 trainer, said USAF hasn’t decided yet exactly how many trainers it wants, as it is deciding how many ancillary missions the new aircraft would fulfill (e.g., lead-in fighter training, aggressor training). Griswold said Lockheed would offer the T-50 trainer, which it helped KAI design and which bears a resemblance to the F-16. South Korea has already built 70 T-50s, is building 20 TA-50 lightly armed versions, and is close to signing up for 60 F/A-50 more capable combat versions, he said. Lockheed is shopping for a US facility where it would build the aircraft.
U.S. Air Force F-35s and F-22s regularly deploy deep into the Pacific region from Alaska, Utah, and Hawaii. In the future, though, the head of U.S. Indo-Pacific Command would like to see the Air Force permanently station fifth-generation aircraft west of the international date line—closer to China.