Raytheon to Offer Variant of Italian-Made Aircraft for T-X Trainer Competition
Raytheon in an announcement made Feb. 22 confirmed that it will partner with Italian aerospace company Finmeccanica to replace the Air Force's aging fleet of T-38 Talon jet trainers.
The companies will offer the T-100, a variant of the existing M-346 advanced trainer manufactured by Alenia Aermacchi, a Finmeccanica subsidiary. The M-346 trainer is currently used by air forces in Italy, the Republic of Singapore, Israel and Poland, and has more than 10,000 flight hours.
Raytheon, the prime contractor and lead integrator on the program, is also partnering with CAE, which will provide simulation technology, training systems and courseware for the T-100; and Honeywell, which will supply its F124 engine.
Roy Azevedo, vice president of secured sensor solutions for space and airborne systems at Raytheon, said developing the airplane is only the beginning. The team is calling their offering a total training package, including classroom and simulator training components.
"We are going to be offering a solution that goes from the classroom to the simulators to the aircraft that includes live, virtual, constructive to train the pilots," Azevedo said in a briefing at the National Press Club in Washington, D.C.
Jim Hvizd, the vice president of business development for space and airborne systems at Raytheon, said the comprehensive training package will enable pilots to immerse themselves in complex training scenarios to better prepare them to fly fourth- and fifth-generation aircraft.
There are many advantages to starting with an already proven aircraft as opposed to a clean-sheet design, according to the executives.
"We believe the way to get [to the best solution for the Air Force] is to start with something that's operational, low risk, affordable and safe," Azevedo said. Having a mature solution will help lower costs.
The T-100 will only require minor updates and changes from the M-346 platform, he said. "There are going to be minor changes — things like displays and refueling. Otherwise, we have a high-performance aircraft," he said. "The rest of it is to tailor the complete training solution to meet specific U.S. requirements."
In the T-X competition Raytheon is competing with a Lockheed Martin-led team providing the T-50A, an upgrade to its T-50 trainer platform developed jointly with Korea Aerospace Industries. It is also up against clean-sheet proposals from both Northrop Grumman and a Boeing-Saab team.
Because its aircraft will have low development needs compared to a clean-sheet option, the company believes it will not only meet the Air Force's deadline for initial operating capability in 2024, but could accelerate that timeline by "a number of years."
"We would like to remove those financial pressures [on the Air Force] for this program so that they don't have to move it to the right," Hvizd said, referring to the budget crunch the service will face funding the KC-46 tanker, the long-range strike bomber and the F-35 joint strike fighter in the mid-2020s. "This is not a developmental activity and doesn't need to be. If we had chosen a clean-sheet design it would have had a very complicated development program," he told reporter following the announcement.
Having a proven design will increase safety for pilots in training because it has already undergone the necessary tests and certifications that a clean-sheet design will have to complete. "I don't know that there's an airplane that's been built that hasn't had some kind of mishap, so why take the risk?" Hvizd asked.
Raytheon is still making decisions on what percentage of the work will be performed domestically and what percentage will be done overseas, the executive said.
However, the majority of the work will be performed within the United States, Hvizd said. For "the current M-346, already … 50 percent of the airplane is U.S.-based," he said. "With the capability we're bringing, and CAE USA's training solutions on top of the engines coming from Arizona from Honeywell, we're going to have a majority of the content be U.S. based."
He said that split will most likely get very close to the breakdown for Lockheed's F-35, "which is basically at 80-20. 20 percent of the F-35 is sourced internationally."
The executives said that Raytheon is setting up a factory in the United States to manufacture the T-100. A decision on where the site will be located is pending, but the company said both new and existing sites are being considered.
Request for proposals for the T-X trainer competition are expected this September. The Air Force is projected to make a decision on the program in the fourth quarter of 2017.