TRAINING AND SIMULATION
Boeing Executive: Air Force Further Delaying T-X Trainer Award Announcement
ORLANDO, Fla. — The Air Force is further delaying a contract award announcement for its T-X trainer program, an industry executive said Nov. 28.
The service is planning to purchase 350 aircraft to replace its aging fleet of T-38 jet trainers. But the contract — which is worth more than $600 million — has been repeatedly delayed.
An award was originally expected before the end of 2017, said Tom Conard, Boeing’s T-X capture team leader. However, the Air Force earlier this fall announced it would be pushed back to spring 2018. Now the service has said it will be further delayed to July 2018, Conard said.
“They did not give rationale to why they moved the award. I suspect … [it has to do with] just the budgets, the schedules, everything that … [goes] on with a competition,” he said during a media briefing at the National Training and Simulation Association’s annual Interservice/Industry Training, Simulation and Education Conference. NTSA is an affiliate of the National Defense Industrial Association.
As of press time, the Air Force had not confirmed the schedule change to National Defense.
Boeing — which is partnering with Saab on its offering — was informed last week of the change when the Air Force released its evaluation notices for companies participating in the competition, Conard said. Evaluation notices are a series of questions that the service would like answered as it moves through the evaluation phase of the competition, he noted during the briefing in Orlando, Florida.
Despite the schedule slippage, Conard said he was confident that the program remains a priority for the Air Force. Given the age of the legacy platforms, the service knows it must move quickly, he added.
He said time will tell how budget uncertainty affects the program, but noted that there is funding throughout the future years defense program for the effort.
A number of defense companies are vying for the lucrative project, including Leonardo, a Lockheed Martin-Korea Aerospace Industries team, a Sierra Nevada Corp. and Turkish Aerospace Industries team and Stavatti Aerospace Ltd.
The Air Force has stated that it wants the aircraft to reach initial operating capability in 2024.
Not only are Boeing and Saab putting a premium on the aircraft component of the system, but also the associated ground-based simulator, Conard said.
“We have been told that ... [the Air Force wants a] significant amount of air time and simulator time,” he said. “It’s equally spread.”
If the Boeing-Saab team wins the contract, the companies will likely sell the system to international customers, he added. They are eyeing opportunities in a number of nations, including Sweden, where Saab is based. However, the team will have to win the Air Force competition if it plans to move forward with those plans, he said.
“That’s the big opportunity that puts it in play,” he said. “We do see a multitude of international [countries] following that but they’re going to take the lead off the Air Force. And if someone else were to win this then they … they would probably benefit there."
Earlier this year, Boeing announced that if it wins it will build the systems at its St. Louis factory. The program would support approximately 1,800 jobs in the area, directly or indirectly, according to the company.