Four teams are expected to compete for the contract for a new U.S. Air Force training jet:
- Boeing Co. (NYSE: BA) has joined with Saab and they are expected to offer a clean-sheet design.
- Northrop Grumman Corp. (NYSE: NOC) has teamed up with BAE Systems and L-3 Communications Holdings Inc. (NYSE: LLL) on another clean-sheet design.
- Lockheed Martin Corp. (NYSE: LMT) and Korea Aerospace Industries (KAI) are expected to go with a modified KAI T-50.
- Raytheon Corp. (NYSE: RTN) has joined with Italy’s Leonardo and Canada’s CAE Inc. (NYSE: CAE) on a version of Leonardo’s M-346 trainer that it calls the T-100.
The draft request for proposals (RFP) is unique in offering incentives for exceeding threshold performance specifications, including high-g force maneuvering, high angle-of-attack maneuvering and aerial refueling. According to Aviation Week, the threshold for high-g force maneuvering is 6.5 g and the objective is 7.5 g. For every 0.1 g above the threshold, the bidder receives a point bonus. All other things equal, including price, the bidder with higher sustained g-capability will receive a higher rating overall.
Aviation Week cited an Air Force spokesman:
Based on the multiple reviews with industry, the Air Force now has a much better appreciation of the potential value of performance above threshold capability. Therefore, in our evaluation of proposals we will incentivize specific performance aspects, allowing for additional capabilities that will improve the effectiveness and efficiency of pilot training for decades to come.
The first phase of the T-X program is valued at about $8.4 billion, and may be the last major contract the Air Force gets to award for several years. Boeing’s KC-46A tanker program and the Lockheed Martin F-35 Joint Strike Fighter are both larger in total size than the T-X program, and both have been plagued with cost overruns and delays.