Raytheon has been discussing the T-X trainer replacement program with the US Air Force for months, and has had conversations about joining the Alenia Aermacchi T-100 bid as prime contractor, report says.
|Raytheon joining with Alenia Aermacchi to market its M-346 trainer for the US Air Force's T-X competition.|
Alenia is offering its M-346 trainer for the T-X program and rebranded the T-100 as part of a joint offering with simulation firm CAE. General Dynamics had been part of that offering as the prime contractor until March, when it surprisingly dropped off the team.
Brig. Gen. Andrew Croft, director of Plans, Programs, Requirements and Assessments at Air Education and Training Command (AETC), and Col. Philip Wielhouwer, chief of AETC's Capability Requirements Division, revealed during an exclusive interview Monday that the Air Force has been discussing the program with Raytheon since around May of this year, two months after GD split from the offering.
An industry source with knowledge of the situation said that Alenia and Raytheon have had ongoing talks about the possibility of joining forces for a T-X bid. The source was not clear if a final agreement had been reached. Italian sources, meanwhile, have hinted for some time that a new prime for the T-100 bid is in the works.
Since GD's withdrawal, Alenia has continued to promote the T-100 as an option for the Air Force. But industry consensus has been that without a US prime, the Italian company was unlikely to fight off its competitors.
Raytheon, the fourth largest defense contractor in the world, has a portfolio largely focused on providing electronics, sensors and weapons to other contractors, rather than producing airframes. However, the fact the M-346 is a platform already in production could make this an attractive program for the company.
The winner of the T-X competition will provide the Air Force with 350 new aircraft to replace the aging T-38 fleet used for advanced jet training. The service believes a new trainer is needed not just because of the age of the T-38 fleet but because it cannot provide ample training for pilots who will be flying the F-35 Joint Strike Fighter in the future.
Grabbing the T-X contract will also provide the winning company an inside track to any number of international customers, especially given the prevalence of the F-35 around the globe
The Air Force's order could grow by 200 aircraft if the service decide to do away with the T-1 Jayhawk, used to train airlift and tanker pilots, and go to a single training aircraft.
Competitors include a pair of clean-sheet designs being put forth by a Boeing/Saab team and a Northrop Grumman-led coalition that includes BAE Systems and L-3; Textron AirLand's new Scorpion design; and the T-50, the Lockheed Martin/Korean Aerospace Industries offering.
The two Air Force officials confirmed that the schedule remains on track for a request for proposal to come in September 2016, a contract award in fall of 2017 and IOC coming sometime in 2023.
Spokesmen for both Raytheon and Alenia declined to comment for this piece.