TRAINING AND SIMULATION
PARIS AIR SHOW NEWS: Boeing Wooing Potential International Customers for T-X Trainer
Photo: Jon Harper
PARIS — Boeing scored a big win last year when it was tapped to build the U.S. Air Force’s next-generation jet trainer. But the company sees an even bigger market overseas, according to one executive.
In September, a Boeing-Saab team landed a contract worth up to $9.2 billion for the platform, known as T-X, and its associated ground systems. They will be expected to prepare pilots to operate fifth-generation aircraft such as the F-35 joint strike fighter, as well as other planes.
The U.S. Air Force currently plans to purchase 351 T-X aircraft, 46 simulators and related ground equipment to replace its aging T-38s. However, the indefinite-delivery/indefinite-quantity contract allows the service to purchase up to 475 aircraft and 120 simulators, at a cost of up to $9.2 billion if all options are exercised.
But that could be just a fraction of international demand. Boeing anticipates a global market for 2,600 T-X systems, said Thom Breckenridge, the company’s vice president for international sales for strike, surveillance and mobility.
As nations retire aging aircraft, struggle with affordability of existing aircraft, and pursue new fighter jets, “we absolutely are confident in the market assessment,” he said June 18 during a presentation at the Paris Air Show.
“We are out discussing this brand new capability with customers,” he added. “We've got a lot of international interest. I think that's reflective of having the full-scale model here at Paris this week. We've already had a number of conversations. We expect to have a number of [additional] conversations … so people are seeing the benefits” of the T-X.
The Paris Air Show draws government and military officials and industry leaders from around the world. Breckenridge said foreign interest in the new system hasn’t been limited to a single region.
On the opening day of the confab, European industry leaders unveiled a mockup of a next-generation platform known as the future combat air system, and announced that the program was transitioning to its next phase. Last year, the United Kingdom made a big splash at the Farnborough Air Show when it rolled out plans for a next-gen fighter called Tempest. Breckenridge was asked if the T-X could potentially be used to train European pilots to operate those future systems.
“We see T-X as being the pathway for pilots all over the world for all types of capabilities … both now and in the future,” he said.
Different derivatives or variants of the T-X could be created to meet the needs of foreign customers, he noted. “This was designed for growth from the very beginning.”
The T-X is a clean sheet design and it mimics and reflects the designs of most modern fighters, he said.
Air forces around the world use a large chunk of their fighter fleets for training rather than missions. The T-X could provide the necessary training while freeing up operational aircraft, he said.
Breckenridge also highlighted the capabilities of the ground-based training technology.
“The way that we designed it with the aircraft, it's a single push of software,” he said. “The software that's in the training system that's on the ground is the exact same as the software that's in the air. So for people that are learning the process and going through the system, there's no negative training. What they see in that ground-based training system is exactly what they see in the aircraft, and that allows obviously the training to be much more efficient as a result.”
The T-X was designed with maintenance and affordability in mind, Breckenridge said, noting that the program came in at much lower cost than the U.S. Air Force anticipated. That should be a draw for potential international customers as well, he said.