Boeing and Saab revealed their entry for the US military's T-X trainer replacement program. The new jet, simply called T-X, is like the lovechild of a F/A-18 Hornet and an F-16 Falcon, and as Boeing tells it, will provide "performance, affordability, and maintainability advantages" over the competition.
"Our T-X is real, ready and the right choice for training pilots for generations to come," Leanne Caret, Boeing Defense, Space, and Security's President and CEO said in an official statement.
And Caret isn't not kidding about the Boeing T-X being both real and ready – Boeing is so confident that it built two examples before the official unveiling on Tuesday. The first jet, which Defense News reports will fly by the end of the year, debuted to media with the kind of pomp usually reserved for automotive debuts. Boeing/Saab will use the second jet – also featured on Tuesday – for structural proof testing.
The needs of a training aircraft are quite different than those of a traditional fighter. The T-X features stadium-style seating, so the instructor riding in back has nearly as good a view as the student in front. Student evaluations should be easy, too, as the open software transmits data effortlessly between ground training systems and the jet itself. Functionally, Boeing claims the twin-tail layout provides more agility than a single-tail design – remember, the military's newest jets, the F-22 Raptor and F-35 Lightning II both use twin-tail layouts – while the Air Force can mount two weapon hard points on the jet's wings.
According to Defense News, four manufacturers – Boeing/Saab, Northrop Grumman, Lockheed Martin/KAI, and Raytheon/Leonardo/CAE – are vying for the contract to build 350 new trainers to replace the Air Force's fleet of aging T-38 Talons.