Aircraft

Leonardo flies solo in US Air Force training fighter bid

Leonardo flies solo in US Air ...
The T-100 was originally backed by Raytheon and Leonardo
The T-100 was originally backed by Raytheon and Leonardo
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The T-100 is based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainer
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The T-100 is based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainer
The T-100 was originally backed by Raytheon and Leonardo
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The T-100 was originally backed by Raytheon and Leonardo

The USAF Advanced Pilot Training Program (T-X) competition took another twist today. Aircraft company Leonardo confirmed it's carrying on in the contest for the contract to replace 400 T-38 training jets, which have been in service for over 50 years, as a solo bidder. Leonardo had previously been working in partnership with Raytheon to present the T-100 trainer and its integrated training system as an entrant.

On January 25, Raytheon announced that it – and Leonardo – were withdrawing from the T-X competition for unspecified reasons. That seemed to be the end of the matter, but Leonardo has decided to go it alone through its US company, Leonardo DRS, acting as prime contractor and the aircraft being built at a new US manufacturing plant.

The two-seater T-100 is derived from the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainer that is currently in service with the Italian, Israeli, and Singaporean air forces. The T-100 is powered by twin F124 turbofan engines developed by Honeywell Aerospace's International Turbine Company, which Leonardo says has the best-in-class thrust-to-weight ratio. In addition, the jet has an embedded tactical training system that provides immersive training for pilots using realistic mission scenarios.

The T-100 is based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainer
The T-100 is based on the Alenia Aermacchi M-346 Master jet trainer

"Leonardo's commitment to pursue the T-X builds on our deep experience in military pilots' training and on the competitiveness of our T-100 integrated Training Systems that can meet the U.S. Air Force's current and future needs," says Mauro Moretti, CEO and General Manager of Leonardo.

Source: Leonardo

3 comments
ljaques
I think I prefer the shorter stubbier front end to the needle look. All the candidates so far are pretty nicely designed, though.
Morton
This should be interesting. According to other sources, the USAF T-X competition will be awarded based on program cost weighted against other aspects, like performance and risk.
While the Leonardo design has low risk, and probably already meets the minimum performance for T-X, its cost is considered high. Maybe the USAF will do some sort of fly-off to determine the actual performance and then see the relative costs.
Boeing also really wants this win, so will bid very low. That, and they have a good design that promises to "break the cost curve." I guess we'll see.
As far as looks go, the Leonardo plane looks like the Yak-130 that shares its origin. The Lockheed/KAI plane looks a lot like a derivative of the F-16, which it is, but more chunky fuselage. The Boeing/SAAB plane looks more slender, and the twin tail fins more matches the F-35 for which it's supposed to train pilots.
John in Brisbane
Aside from the stuff that could be said about the hilarious lies around military acquisition and maintenance costs, this program reminds me that there is a real market for very light, fighter-like jets. Suitable for training but equally suitable as an aspirational flying experience for general pilots.
The BD-10 is the closest we've come and it's still basically the one, with money to fix the structural issues. The Sonex jet is very popular even as a tiny home-built. The focus has been on very expensive 6 - 10 tonne air-frames which are light fighters. An improved BD-10 -style air-frame with one or two commercial engines would provide highly relevant military training while being cheap enough for regular pilots to expect to get time in. The BD was too lightly built in some regards but all the failed projects that followed went too far the other way. I am sure a market exists, not just because I want one!