With the US Air Force poised to issue its final request for proposals for the T-X trainer in mid-December, the four competitors have been making last-minute tweaks to their aircraft. The Boeing-Saab T-X prototype is on schedule to make its first flight by the end of 2016 after completing ground afterburner tests in November. In comparison, the KAI T-50 has completed its 5,000th test flight over a 14-year period, according to a November 28 announcement. An improved version, dubbed the T-50A, produced by a Lockheed Martin-KAI team, is also competing for the T-X programme. A T-50A prototype made its first test flight in the United States on November 19 from Greenville, South Carolina. The Raytheon-Leonardo team has announced that its T-X competitor, the T-100, a version of Leonardo’s M-346, will if selected, have its final assembly at a new plant to be built in Meridian, Mississippi and Northrop Grumman, which first flew its Model 400 T-X competitor at Mojave, California, in August 2016, has lifted the veil of secrecy enough to have videos of a prototype appear on the internet.
A two-year delay in the T-X trainer programme – delaying full operational capability from 2032 to 2034 – announced earlier this year will require an additional $40 million to keep current Northrop T-38 trainers flying until replaced by the T-X under the Pacer Classic 3 upgrade programme.
David C Isby