Boeing and Saab roll out T-X fifth-generation jet fighter trainer

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The Boeing/Saab T-X will compete to replace the US Air Force's fleet of 400 T-38 jet trainers(Credit: Boeing)

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Finally sating the curiosity in aviation circles, Boeing and partner Saab have taken the wraps off their long-teased T-X military jet training aircraft in St. Louis. The single-engine, two-seater aircraft is the focus of a major competition worth billions of dollars to replace the US Air Force's aging fleet of T-38 trainers with a modern design for future pilots of fifth-generation fighters.

Boeing and Saab revealed two production T-X aircraft, which will be used to demonstrate the aircraft's capabilities to the Air Force and the US Defense Department. The T-X is a "blank-sheet" aircraft designed specifically to meet Air Force training requirements for pilots of fifth-generation fighters, such as the F-22 Raptor and the F-35 Lightning II. Boeing says the design is inexpensive, flexible, and easily upgradeable as new technology comes online.

Like most trainers, the T-X has a sleek, greyhound-like design with a single-engine and twin tails derived from Boeing's F/A-18 for greater maneuverability and a high angle of attack. It also has stadium seating and an advanced cockpit with embedded training as well as the ability to blend with state-of-the-art ground-based training. In addition, it is maintenance-friendly in anticipation of decades of service.

The two production T-X aircraft have already been built will be followed by three more to demonstrate competitiveness in terms of quick delivery against competitors that are offering off-the-shelf aircraft.

If successful, the T-X will replace the Air Force's fleet of 400 T-38 aircraft that have been in service for over half a century and the first T-X would enter service in 2024. Since the program anticipates a minimum order of 350 aircraft, this is a major contract worth hundreds of billions of dollars.

Such a win would not only look good on Boeing's books, but it would also allow the company to reassert itself in the warplane market after losing out on the F-35 fighter and the Long Range Strike Bomber competitions to Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman, respectively. In addition, training aircraft often find secondary overseas markets as light fighter aircraft, so another revenue stream is possible.

But this is far from a done deal. The Boeing/Saab T-X faces stiff competition from the partnership of Lockheed Martin and Korea Aerospace Industries, as well as Northrop Grumman, Alenia Aermacchi, and Textron AirLand.

The videos below show the T-X being prepared for rollout and an animation of a pair strutting their stuff.

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