Bringing a new fighter from drawing board to its first flight is generally a lengthy endeavor, taking years of planning and tweaking and engineering. Or, at least it normally does. Boeing and Saab just took their new joint-developed training fighter, the T-X, out for its first spin just 36 months after starting development.
According to Saab's deputy program manager for the T-X, Eddy De la Motte, that's half the time it usually takes to get a new jet in the sky.
"We went from [critical design review] to first flight in 12 months. We don't do that very much at the Boeing Company," Boeing's program manager for the T-X, Ted Torgerson told Defense News. "I don't want to say it has not been done, but for a manned aircraft to go through a complete production-ready design, that is as fast and as efficient as we've ever been through it."
Boeing/Saab's first test flight was a simple, 55-minute matter for Boeing test pilots Steven Schmidt and Dan Draeger. The pair took the plane up to 10,000 feet and hit speeds of 231 knots (265 miles per hour) while running handling checks on the twin-tail, single-engine jet.
"I've been a part of this team since the beginning, and it was really exciting to be the first to train and fly," pilot Schmidt said. "The aircraft met all expectations. It's well designed and offers superior handling characteristics. The cockpit is intuitive, spacious and adjustable, so everything is within easy reach."
"It was a smooth flight and a successful test mission," Draeger, who rode shotgun in the instructor's seat said in an official release. "I had a great all-around view throughout the flight from the instructor's seat, which is critical during training."
Boeing/Saab's T-X is one of four jets competing for the role as the US military's next training aircraft. Northrop Grumman is fielding a clean-sheet design that allegedly flew earlier this year, while Lockheed Martin and Raytheon are modifying existing designs with partners – the South Korean KAI T-50 for Lockheed and the Leonardo M-346 for Raytheon.