After much deliberation and examination, Lockheed Martin has decided to nix their plans to offer a clean-sheet or from the ground up design for the T-X program headed by the US Air Force. The expected pivot is to go ahead with the original plan of moving forward with the T-50A as their answer to replace the aging T-38 trainer fleet from service. Lockheed Martin has been in deliberation for nearly months on end to offer a clean-sheet design for the upcoming T-X competition but decided that the risk does not warrant the reward.
The option for a clean-sheet design could set back the program in schedule and increase costs at an astronomical rate opines Rob Weiss who is the executive vice president and general manager of the advance development programs, Skunk Works. Weiss spearheaded a team that after careful analysis and estimation concluded that the clean-sheet design would not meet the Air Force’s target date of 2024 for IOC or initial operational capability while costing an incredulous eight times more expensive than modernizing a T-50A which was the original plan. This would also place the project on a concurrent deadline of having to start production while still developing the plane.
Any setback in the development phase would delay the production phase and vice versa. Weiss states, “At the end of the day, it costs more, takes longer, is higher risk and does not add any capability beyond what modernizing a T-50 will do.” On the flipside the T-50A which was developed as a joint effort with Korea Aerospace Products Industries is ready to go into production right now. The T-X program intends to upgrade the embedded training, inflight refueling, introduce an open system architecture and a 5th generation cockpit to better accommodate and train pilots to navigate modern aircrafts like the F-22/F-35. The T-X program competition is expected to have fierce competition from five other industry competitors including Lockheed Martin with the winner expected to become the dominant producer of training aircraft for the next twenty years. All T-38 advanced trainers will be replaced with 350 models of the new production models.
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