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Boeing has been awarded the USAF contract for building the next gen trainer to take the place of the much beloved but aging Northrup T-38 Talon trainer, a product of the 60s and the first supersonic trainer ever.
Boeing’s entry, the T-X, will play a big role in future Air Force training. Plans are for Boeing to build at least 351 of the jets, nearly 50 simulators for them and all the ground equipment to support them.
The airplane is being called a “clean sheet” design, but it’s not really. Boeing’s entry was designed in partnership with Saab and is said to leverage design and components from Saab’s Gripen fighter and Boeing’s F/A-18E/F Super Hornet. And it’s undeniably cool looking. Like the T-38, the T-X is fast, just over Mach 1 with the power provided by a single General Electric F404 turbofan with afterburner. It will also be capable of aerial refueling, which will provide yet more training opportunities for pilots looking to transition from the advanced trainer to the Lockheed Martin F-35 or F22.
The big takeaway from the program is its cost of $9.2 billion. Not that it’s a big cost but that it’s about $10 billion less than the Air Force estimated the fighter program would cost. We’ll see Boeing and Saab can make good on that price tag. The new jet is expected to enter service in 2023. Boeing will build components for the T-X in the United States, but it has yet to announce where the manufacturing facilities will be based.